As part of their pitch to franchise cornerstone Dwight Howard to continue his career with them, the Orlando Magic have told him he can "decide the fate" of head coach Stan Van Gundy and President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith "at season's end," but only if he signs a contract extension with the team, reports Ric Bucher of ESPN.com.
Orlando is desperate to lock Howard, the league's best center, up for the long haul. He can opt for free agency in the summer by using the Early Termination Option in his current contract, forgo free agency until 2013 by declining the ETO, or sign a contract extension with the Magic.
Howard's relationship with Van Gundy has been tense at times. "I have no problem with him off the court," Howard said of Van Gundy in an interview with Esquire in October. "The only thing I had a real problem with was the way he coached."
Surely it's "the way he coached" with which Howard finds fault, because it's difficult to argue against Van Gundy's résumé.
Since taking over the team in 2007, Van Gundy has led Orlando to an NBA Finals and two Eastern Conference Finals. He owns the best winning percentage in the regular season (249-121, .673) and the playoffs (30-24, .556) in franchise history. Small forward Hedo Turkoglu earned Most Improved Player of the Year honors under Van Gundy, while Howard has taken home three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
Howard's relationship with Smith seems to have soured as well, and it's telling that team CEO Alex Martins, and not Smith, "is presiding over attempts to keep Howard in Orlando," according to Bucher.
I have to question the wisdom of allowing a 26-year-old to dictate the personnel decisions of a multimillion-dollar business, but there's no indication yet that Howard is interested in this latest proposal.