As now-deposed coach Stan Van Gundy's relationship with Dwight Howard fell apart, reports abounded that the Orlando Magic center had grown tired of SVG's demanding style. That wasn't terribly surprising — hardline coaches can get on players' nerves over time, particularly when there's not a clear progression towards a championship. When the Magic stalled, SVG's time ran out.
If the Magic want to keep Howard in Orlando — which seems unlikely based on at least one report — then they might need to bring in a different kind of coach. With that in mind, it's a little surprising that two of the rumored possibilities are even more intense than Van Gundy.
The first name, which surfaced Tuesday, is Utah Jazz legend Jerry Sloan. He's been nominally retired since abruptly resigning from the Jazz last season, but apparently he wants to get back to the sidelines. From Chris Tomasson for Fox Sports Florida:
Sloan told FOX Sports Florida on Tuesday he has interest in the Orlando Magic job, which became open Monday when Stan Van Gundy was fired. "Yes, I think so,'' Sloan said from his farm in McLeansboro, Ill., about his interest. "It would be very intriguing. But they would have to be interested in me.'' [...]
"I'd let other people judge that,'' Sloan said when asked if he could coach Howard, who had been flirting with leaving small-market Orlando but decided just before the March 15 trade deadline that he would not opt out of his contract and delay possible free agency until the summer of 2013.
Those who know Skiles well insist he would crawl to Orlando to be the Magic's coach. Skiles not only has a house in the Orlando area but he played five years with the Magic while becoming one of their most beloved players ever.
More importantly, Skiles is one of Richard DeVos Sr.'s all-time favorites. DeVos is the owner of the Magic. It's hardly a secret DeVos wants an NBA title in the worst way and has to realize it would be foolish at this stage — especially if all-world center Dwight Howard remains in the Magic Kingdom — to bring in an untested young coach instead of a proven, quality coach like Skiles.
Hiring Skiles would also be a p.r. bonanza for the Magic as their fans most certainly would embrace a Skiles' "homecoming.''
Sloan is one of the greatest coaches of the last 25 years, and Skiles has proven his ability to get teams to play hard and improve their defense considerably. The problem for the Magic, though, is that both coaches are legendarily intense and not particularly well-suited to deal with temperamental superstars. Sloan resigned in part because of his lack of interest in dealing with Deron Williams' superstar demands (which were minor compared to LeBrons and Carmelos of the league), and Skiles is well known for expecting his players to carry out his game plan and follows his rules.
For all we know, Howard might respect these men's reputations and be a good soldier. But if the Magic are looking to keep him in town with a splashy hire, these names double down on the same traits that got Howard tired of Van Gundy in the first place.
However, it is possible that the Magic are simply looking towards the future. Sloan is best known for his work with stars Karl Malone and John Stockton, but he also oversaw the Jazz rebuilding process in the mid-'00s and led them to a period of success in a stacked Western Conference. Skiles tends to get on his players' nerves after a couple seasons, but he has shown that he can get a group of young players to perform well above their on-paper expectations.
The Magic have plenty of time to pick a coach and might not end up with either of these candidates. However, the rumors suggest that Orlando could finally be looking towards a Howard-less future even as they attempt to placate their star in the short term. For once, the franchise could be keeping its options open without seeming horribly disorganized.
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