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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Magic get rid of Van Gundy


The Magic fired coach Stan Van Gundy and split with general manager Otis Smith on Monday, the culmination of a season in which Orlando was ensnared in a long-running soap opera with Dwight Howard and made another first-round playoff exit.

News photo
Disappearing act: The Magic fired head coach Stan Van Gundy on Monday. General manager Otis Smith also left the team. AP

"It's time for new leadership and new voices," Magic CEO Alex Martins said in a statement. "The disappointment of getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs these past two seasons played a primary role in our decision, as we feel our momentum towards winning a championship has paused."

Smith and Van Gundy's problematic relationship with Howard weighed down the team all season after the All-Star center requested a trade.

Orlando went 37-29 in the regular season but was eliminated in five games by Indiana after a rash of late-season injuries that included back surgery for Howard. Orlando went 5-12 without him.

In early April, Van Gundy said top-ranking team officials had told him that Howard had asked management to fire Van Gundy as a condition for the center signing a long-term contract beyond 2013. Howard denied it.

Van Gundy coached the Magic for five seasons. He finished with a 259-135 record, going 31-28 in the playoffs.

Smith departs after six years. He was the architect of Magic teams that made it to the playoffs in each of those seasons, winning the Eastern Conference title in 2009.

The day after the Magic's season ended with the loss to the Pacers, Smith said that he needed a few days to decide if he wanted to return, calling it a "50-50" chance.

Van Gundy said at the time he wanted to come back and was hoping the ultimate decision would be about performance solely.

"When you're talking a professional relationship, what matters — at least to me — is the results," Van Gundy said. "I don't care if it's a business relationship where two people at work are driving a business to make money, or if it's a sports relationship, where the object is to win games.

"Those kinds of professional relationships should be based on results, not on do we like each other or whatever. So to me, the relationship was great. There's a lot of wins and everything else."

But both have acknowledged that this season was trying not only for the players but the organization as a whole.

"This season, and we've been digesting it all year, has been the longest, shortest season that we've had," Smith said. "But it's something that you have to go through. Most sports franchises at some time go through a little bit of uncertainty and this is our time."

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