No matter how or when their season ends, the Orlando Magic will not fire President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith or head coach Stan Van Gundy, reports Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. Bob Vander Weide, the club's CEO, spoke with Schmitz on the record about his team's foremost leaders:
[Vander Weide] and owner Rich DeVos' family feel comfortable and confident in Van Gundy and Smith.
"We're happy with Otis and Stan," Vander Weide said. "Neither are in jeopardy."
We've seen executives go back on their word in professional sports before, especially after issuing the so-called "vote of confidence," so we still don't know for sure that Smith and Van Gundy will return.
After the fold, a review of how the Magic got to the point where the media and fans wondered about the futures of Smith and Van Gundy.
This season has been Orlando's most disappointing since Van Gundy took over in 2007/08, guiding a team that had been swept out of the first round of the playoffs the previous season to 52 wins, a division championshiop, and a playoff series victory; Smith's acquisition of Rashard Lewis also played a huge role in thi improvement.
The Magic advanced to the NBA Finals the following season, despite All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson missing its final three months due to a shoulder injury. Smith acquired Rafer Alston as a replacement moments before the trading deadline, and Van Gundy integrated the veteran point guard, whom he coached previously in Miami, in short order.
After sweeping through the first two rounds of the 2009/10 playoffs, the Magic wilted against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, expectations for the coming season remained the same: it's championship or bust.
Smith made two bold trades on December 18th, acquiring Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Earl Clark, and Gilbert Arenas after deciding his current team, which had lost five games out of its last six following a 15-4 start, could not contend for a championship. The new team went on a nine-game winning streak shortly thereafter, improving to 25-12, but never quite showed it was a marked improvement over the previous group.
Now, the team still faces first-round playoff elimination against the Atlanta Hawks despite having the league's second-highest payroll.