Orlando Parts Ways With Van Gundy, Smith, But Hardly Solves All of its Issues

The Orlando Magic fired Stan Van Gundy and “mutually parted ways” with general manager Otis Smith earlier this week, getting the ball rolling on fixing what has been a messy situation. But the jobs of CEO Alex Martins and the rest of Orlando’s brass is hardly over. They’ve got to hire new folks for those positions and hope that the changes lead to some sort of decision from star Dwight Howard. Martins admitted that the tenuous relationship between Howard and Van Gundy was a factor in the decisions, but said there were many other reasons as well. Meanwhile, Howard has basically been estranged from the organization since having season-ending surgery a month ago. It’s a mess, and it will be interesting to see it unfold.

Alex Martins joined WYGM in Orlando to discuss the state of the Magic, how Howard’s relationship with Van Gundy factored in, if Howard ever asked him to fire Van Gundy, the situation with Otis Smith, the timeframe of getting a decision from Howard on his future, not going through another season like last year and the concerns of Howard being away from the team right now.

What message do you have for fans and season ticket holders who are concerned with where the team is at now?:

“The message that I would send them is the moves that we’ve made and the future of the organization is about winning a championship. I think our track record has been quite great under our family ownership. We have the best record, by winning percentage, in the Eastern Conference over the life of the DeVos’ owning the team. We just felt that these changes were necessary for us to keep moving toward our ultimate goal and that’s winning a championship.”

You’ve said the move wasn’t made because of Dwight Howard. If he had a great relationship with Stan Van Gundy, are you saying the change still would’ve been made?:

“What I said was that the decision was made for a lot of different factors over the course of the last two years. And I think I also alluded to the fact that one of the factors was the relationship between Stan and Dwight. But there were many, many other reasons why those changes were made. I do think that if all the other circumstances were the same and Dwight’s future was already solidified, I think we would’ve been at the same crossroads as to whether we were going to make those changes.”

Did Dwight Howard ask anyone in upper management to have Van Gundy fired?:

“I stand by what I said … and that’s the fact that Dwight never did ask me to have Stan fired or to fire Stan. The circumstances over who said what to whom and when, I don’t know all of the specifics to be honest with you. You know that I only took over in this role back in December and a lot took place before that period of time. … I’m not going to get into what I know, what I don’t know, who said what and when.”

Was it a situation where Otis Smith said, ‘If Stan goes, I go?’”:

“I think it’s pretty clear to say that Otis didn’t feel comfortable moving forward without Stan. But when we talk about mutual decision, we had also come to the conclusion that a change was needed with Otis, too, because of a lot of different decisions and factors that have been made over the last two years. So, it’s fair to say that it was mutual because it was a conversation that Otis and I had that we arrived at the same place. He didn’t feel comfortable staying and we felt that there was a change necessary for us to move forward as well.”

Is there a timeframe where you would like to know what Dwight wants to do?:

“We’re going to continue to have those conversations with he and his representative. I think we’ve been clear about what our desire is. But at the end of the day it truly is Dwight’s decision because Dwight’s got to decide whether he signs an extension to his contract with us or not. We’ll continue those discussions … and we’ll quickly move on getting a new general manager in here and let him develop that relationship and determine whether Dwight is going to move forward with us or not.”

Is it safe to say, though, that you guys aren’t going to go through another season of not knowing for sure what he’s going to do?:

“Yeah, I’m pretty well on record saying  that we’re not going to go through the type of season that we went through this past season. Our fans don’t deserve that, our ownership doesn’t deserve that. We want to have the future solidified and move forward in one goal, of winning a championship, at the beginning of last season.”

How worried are you that he’s kind of separated himself from the organization over the last month?:

“Obviously I’d much rather he be here around us and have the opportunity to talk about moving forward together. Having said all that, we’ve stayed in communication with him and his representatives. We do the best we can from afar to influence him and tell him about our continued goal. … We’re going to deal with the situation as it is the best we can.”

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