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Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Magic an expert in ousting coaches

LOS ANGELES — Given that Magic Johnson is such a genuine (lost) soul, I can't wait for his take on the Dwight Howard-Stan Van Gundy saga.

Can't wait to hear Magic's slant on the latest NBA guilty-until-proven-innocent superstar indicted as a coach-constrictor.

Can't wait to witness again his seamless spin move and legendary look-away pap.

Nobody is more accomplished at leading the media around in circles, bright lights in their disoriented faces.

How privileged and opportune to have a confirmed specialist like Magic on the ABC set to familiarize us with the squalid subject. You know, how the insubordination process works, how it escalates from disrespect to defiance, how it goes down with general managers and owners as veiled accomplices.

Coaches are not supposed to find out they're being subverted until the coup d'etat has been sanctioned and the news release distributed.

It's a league rule.

That's why the outing of Howard and reference to a high-ranking management snitch (I'm leaning toward a certain ex-employee who remains related to the DeVos family) by Van Gundy was such a hoot and a holler.

Think how bugged out Magic would have gotten had Lakers coach Paul Westhead uncovered his impending downfall and alerted the media before the coup was complete.

If a player can't undermine a coach without being undermined himself, that's not the country formerly known as America I want to live in.

I can't wait for Mike Wilbon, Jon Barry and Chris Broussard to connect the blotches from Magic to the Howard-Van Gundy situation. I think ABC's audience would like to know how the two seditious acts correspond and differ.

Can't wait for the followup questions when he's through tap dancing.

In Magic's 1987 book "Winnin' Times" he pawned off the firing of Westhead on Jerry Buss.

Who would have guessed it was the owner who pulled the trigger?

What provoked Buss to do that a mere 11 games (7-4) into the season?

Magic was incessantly complaining to him about Westhead's infernal play-calling that tended to inhibit his precursor acumen to manufacture miraculous off the break for equally displeased teammates, exempting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was ambiguous.

A week or so before Westhead was wheeled out, I got a call from a Lakers official, who tipped me off, with Buss' blessing, about what they were thinking about doing.

The idea was to gauge the reaction with a national columnist. The planted item hardly created a ripple. Nobody got bent out of shape until Magic's intimate involvement was discovered.

No, Magic was not the lone contributing factor/force behind Westhead's dismissal. The previous (1981) season, the Lakers had been bumped off in the playoffs by Moses Malone's Rockets. Naturally, the coach bore the brunt.

Still, for the life of me, I can't recall the rookie crying to Buss the year before that when Magic and Jamaal Wilkes polished off the 76ers for the title minus Kareem, who sat out Game 6 at home with a sprained ankle.

Two seasons later, Magic was feeling real strong. Though Kareem, Wilkes and James Worthy carried their share of the weight, Johnson wielded it whenever his spirit or ego moved him.

Whatever Lola, err, Madge wanted, Madge got.

Being permitted to brandish such a power tool led to subsequent stars feeling justified to go for their coaches' jugulars.

Any handy reason suffices: a system that conflicts with on-hand talent, a belief the boss is incapable of taking the team to the next level, perpetual negativity, a need to consign blame when times are tough; being told what to do, and a coach's lack of ability to make free throws for them.

I can't wait for Magic to skirt the scalps on his belt (he also greased Pat Riley's skid from L.A.) and chew out Howard . . . not for attempted coach-killing but for failing.

Then again, maybe Magic simply will revert to form and go after Van Gundy and match TNT's distinguished spokesman slur for slur. As always, the two wordsmiths weighed in, so to speak, with enlightening perspectives.

Shaquille O'Neal, who laid the groundwork for Penny Hardaway's rebellion against Brian Hill before bolting to the Lakers, basically blamed everything on Van Gundy.

No carryover Heat agenda there, right, big fella?

Charles Barkley, doing a Kanye West routine, referred to the Magic official who told Van Gundy of Howard's alleged appeal to management as a "scumbag."

Ah, another TNT award-winning moment.

Considering the source, the guy should take that as a compliment.

As for Magic, please don't get the impression I'm picking on him . . . again. None of the above is in any way a response to his tweet months ago that I'm no longer on TV because I wasn't very good when I worked 16 years for NBC, TNT, NBA-TV and FOX . . . and that I used to be a powerful figure in the NBA but am now low man on the totem pole.

Hey, you have to respect the man's historically sound judgment.

Nevertheless, Magic sure went to great lengths to answer somebody he deems "irrelevant."

Magic better pray I never write my book.

Column contributor Jay Negron is rooting for ownership to "punish Dwight by hiring Jeff Van Gundy for the remainder of Stan's contract."

So, Otis Smith claims he knows nothing about Howard's request to have Van Gundy fired?

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.

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