The turmoil surrounding the Orlando Magic, who have slipped to a potential sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, has prompted many NBA fans to give up on the struggling team. Head coach Stan Van Gundy, on the other hand, plans to stick by his troublesome charges.
As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, Van Gundy declared that he has no plans to leave the team.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else,” Van Gundy said. “I love Orlando, and this is where I want to be.”
Van Gundy may love Orlando, but the feeling is becoming less and less mutual. He has just one year left on his current contract, but even that will be too long for the Magic’s future hopes.
The 2012-13 season will be a critical season in Orlando, as Dwight Howard (the suddenly-moody star at the center of the team’s troubles) will be deciding whether to re-sign with the team for the long term. Howard may or may not have his own issues with Van Gundy—the six-time All-Star denies rumors that he told management to fire the coach—but their individual relationship is only part of the problem.
Howard’s recent tendency toward sulking has made a tense locker-room situation worse, and the personality clashes are bleeding over into the team’s win-loss record. Since Howard picked up his player option for the 2012-13 season three weeks ago, the Magic (a solid 28-16 at the time) have dropped seven of 11.
Although the players need to do their part in keeping their off-court issues off the court, Van Gundy’s job is to smooth over these kinds of problems and keep his team focused on basketball. He has patently failed to do that, and every loss that piles up hurts his credibility with the team that much more.
Keeping Van Gundy as head coach would be asking for another tumultuous season in 2012-13, and that would pretty well guarantee that Howard leaves as a free agent. The Magic need to choose between keeping Stan Van Gundy and keeping Dwight Howard—which do you think will help them more?