“I don’t wanna be what you want me to be. So when I call you’re just yelling at me. I’m sorry, it’s my fault. It’s over.”
Lyric from: It’s Over from the album Evolver
Written By: Pharrell Williams, Kanye West
Performed by: John Legend, Kanye West
Stan Van Gundy was “relieved of his duties” yesterday as head coach of the Orlando Magic. That’s just one half of the news out of Orlando, GM Otis Smith was “relieved” as well. Um yeah, they were fired and this announcement was hardly a shocker for anyone.
This was a tough, crazy year for the Magic franchise. It all started with Dwight Howard saying he wanted to be traded and, for Van Gundy, it all ended with that bizarre, impromptu revelation of Howard’s covert plot to get him fired. In my humble opinion Howard was demanding the wrong thing. He should have been demanding a better supporting cast since that’s the real issue in Orlando. And here’s the thing, Dwight Howard will probably still leave, leaving the Magic hanging anyway. My question, though, is this…what really qualifies a player to have the power to get a coach fired?
By the time Michael Jordan had Doug Collins fired in 1989, he was already a former league MVP, a three-time scoring champion and a five-time NBA All-star. Collins had coached the Bulls in the playoffs and Eastern Conference Finals but couldn’t get the team pass the Pistons to make a Finals appearance. Oh and he did say that the problem with the Bulls offense was that Jordan wouldn’t pass the ball. And that was a wrap on him.
The Nets were a year removed from their second consecutive finals appearance when Jason Kidd told management that the team needed a coaching change in 2004. Byron Scott was done and assistant coach Lawrence Frank took the reins. Kidd had been Rookie of the Year and a seven-time All-Star but had arrived in New Jersey under scrutinized circumstances himself. Phoenix traded Kidd to the Nets after claims of domestic abuse from his then wife and many thought that the Suns were sending a message.
Maybe yesterday’s happenings were just as much about the Magic’s spastic management style as much as it was about their desire to please their star player. They’ve been here before. Tracy McGrady got Doc Rivers relieved of his duty as Magic coach in 2003 after Doc had rescued the team from the ashes. Doc was in his fifth season. He nearly led the team to a playoff birth in his first season and won coach of the year. They made the playoffs his next three seasons. But the Magic started the 2003 season 1-10 and Tracy McGrady had seen enough.
After being drafted ninth overall in 1997, McGrady needed Vince Carter to help him become a breakout star in Toronto. In Orlando he continued to shine but just not bright enough to ever get out of the first round of the playoffs. And so goes the legend of Tracy McGrady, the all-star and 2-time scoring champion who couldn’t lead a team to the second round.
Doc was fired and Assistant Johnny Davis was promoted to head coach. But that wasn’t enough to satisfy McGrady who eventually demanded to be traded anyway.
So here we are again with the Orlando Magic having just fired a coach at the 5-year mark because a so-called superstar has said that they should. And again, the superstar will still likely leave and the Magic will reprise their role as the desperate girlfriend who got a boob job for a guy who didn’t want her anyway, proving to be a costly and tearful, irrational decision. What has Dwight Howard done to earn this privilege? Howard is definitely not Tracy McGrady but his last three seasons on the court have been nearly as forgettable. The Magic advanced to the Conference finals in 2010 but eventually succumbed to the Celtics’ wrath. Howard posted career highs in points and shooting percentage last season and the Magic won 52 games but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
This season Howard openly campaigned to be traded, sulked in games and quit on his team before the playoffs. He elected to stay in Los Angeles after outpatient back surgery that had a two-day recovery time. He’s been there a month all while his team was losing in the playoffs and planning a termination coronation in his honor. Even when he dazzles us we still get the feeling that we are only catching a glimpse of what he can become. Is this a guy who should be calling the coaching shots?
Still in the game of life, wins and losses are defined by time. Jordan gets Collins ousted and, and he and Phil go on to win six championships in Chicago. Scott leaves New Jersey as the winningest coach in franchise history. The Nets are now Brooklyn’s team and, Jason Kidd had to go back to Dallas to get his first ring. Tracy McGrady is still trying to find the second round of the playoffs as a role player with the Atlanta Hawks and Doc has one championship with the Celtics and a pretty decent chance at another this season.
Stan Van Gundy was the Magic’s fourth coach since 2003, since Doc Rivers. He’s won a little more than 65% of his games in Orlando and Dwight Howard was the headliner of that success. Howard wanted him gone and now he is gone. Good move by the Magic? Will Howard stick around in Orlando to see how this turns out? Who has a brighter future, Van Gundy or Howard? For answers to these questions and many others in life, stay tuned. Only time will tell.