EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above includes two instances of Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy using PG-13 language. Just a head's up for sensitive ears out there. Also, if crushing awkwardness is what you're after, that starts when Dwight Howard walks over at about the 2:40 mark.
On Wednesday morning, Kelly Dwyer asked, "Does Dwight Howard want Stan Van Gundy out as Magic coach?" On Thursday afternoon, we got our answer: Yes. Yes, he does.
And in a world of anonymous sources and reports based on the whispers of "a person familiar with the thinking of people involved in discussions," the source on this is pretty strong — Van Gundy himself.
In a post-shootaround media session before the Orlando Magic's Thursday night matchup with the New York Knicks in Orlando, the coach confirmed reports that Howard had told Magic management that he wanted the coach fired. Van Gundy spoke openly and plainly about learning of Howard's request from higher-ups in the Magic organization. An oblivious Howard then walked over, put his arm around Van Gundy in full view of the media and denied, denied, denied.
See for yourself in the video above, first made available on the Magic website and later posted by Trey Kerby at The Basketball Jones, which puts the comments made by Van Gundy and Howard out there for the whole world to see.
Before we had the video, though, first we had the tweets. First, from Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
From there, we were off and running.
Hit the jump for more of the remarks that Van Gundy and Howard made to reporters, thanks to the Magic, Kerby and the Sentinel's Josh Robbins, plus more on this developing bombshell of a story.
Following Isola's tweet, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel reported that Van Gundy told media members that he was "told by people in our management" that Dwight had requested his firing. "Right from the top [of the organization]," he said.
Robbins at the Sentinel had more:
"I know he has [asked that I be fired]," Van Gundy told reporters after the Magic completed their shootaround. "That's just the way it is. Again, I've been dealing with that all year. It's not anything real bothersome. You go out and do your job." [...]
Asked how he knows it's true, Van Gundy said, "I was told it was true by people in our management right from the top."
Van Gundy continued, as you can see in the clip above, when he was asked what Magic management has told him about Howard's request and what they plan to do about it.
"They haven't told me anything, and they don't need to," Van Gundy said. "I mean, I'm the coach right now, and, you know, I'm the coach until they decide I'm not the coach. They don't need to tell me anything, and I don't expect them to tell me anything. What I expect is that we play better defense tonight.
"You guys think that stuff's crazy, but that's honestly the truth. I mean, the rest of it — I said this before, I mean, I don't care about that stuff. If they wanna — you know, it's 12:02 right now — if they wanna fire me at 12:05, I'll go home and find something to do. I'll have a good day. I'm not worried about that at all. What I'm worried about is at 7 o'clock tonight, are we gonna be able to guard Carmelo Anthony? I mean, that concerns the hell out of me."
Van Gundy then spoke about the universal experience of employees bristling at bosses' commands and how just about everybody has to work for someone that they don't like, "and still works very hard and does a very good job." Asked whether having the request out in the open in some way liberating, Van Gundy didn't mince words.
"Since everything came out yesterday, you know, I'll be honest — you know you're going to be asked and you think about how you're going to respond, and the whole thing," Van Gundy said. "The only thing I'm ever uncomfortable with is bull[EXPLETIVE]. And so, to come in and no-comment or deny that it's true and everything ... I mean, the only thing I guess, David, that ever liberates me is just, you know, be honest and deal with what's out there.
"Some people have a hard time with that, I guess, but to me, that's a lot easier to deal with than bull[EXPLETIVE]."
Van Gundy then said he's "not worried" about what management decides to do about the situation ... and that's when things got even more awkward.
As Howard Beck of the New York Times tweeted, Howard ambled over to Van Gundy, leaned down and put his arm around Van Gundy, not knowing that the coach had just told a gaggle of reporters that the All-Star center tried to have him fired. (You can see that at the 2:40 mark of the video clip at the top of this post.)
"Yeah, Stan, we're not worried about that, right?" Howard asked. The two went back and forth about the Magic's main concern being winning games. Howard asked Van Gundy if "Dave Ping," whom the center called "the guy who started this B.S." with his story about Howard's demands, was in attendance at the session. (The reporter's name is actually David Pingalore, for what it's worth.) Van Gundy said he hadn't seen the reporter, then asked the assembled media members if they were done with him.
"You can talk to him now," Van Gundy said, indicating Howard.
Asked for his take on Van Gundy's comments, Howard immediately denied ever having demanded the coach be fired, asking the reporters to reveal their source ... who had just exited stage right. Wow.
More on Howard's denial, from Robbins:
Howard said he had previously denied the story to ESPN.
When Howard was asked point blank if he asked to have Van Gundy fired, Howard, responded, "What did I just say yesterday? I know you guys watch ESPN."
Howard said: "Whatever happens at the end of the season is not under my control. I am a player for the Magic. I am not the GM. I am not [team owner] Rich DeVos. I am not [CEO] Alex Martins. So that's not my job. So you guys should stop with every other week it's trying to find something, because there's nothing. There's nothing. I haven't said anything to anybody about anything. Our main concern is winning. So all the other stuff should stop."
Oh, by the way, the Magic and Knicks play in a nationally televised game on TNT with Eastern Conference playoff implications at 7 p.m. at the Amway Center. So I'm guessing we'll be hearing an awful lot more about this in the very, very near future.
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