ESPN NBA commentator (and former Knicks and Rockets coach) Jeff Van Gundy had some choice words for Dwight Howard and Orlando Magic CEO Jeff Martins on Friday. Van Gundy has some personal connection to the rumored Howard-endorsed firing of Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy, his brother.
“To hide behind the fact or try to make everyone believe that Dwight Howard didn’t have a part in this is absurd. Say listen we fired this guy because we know this our best chance to keep Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard and I decided to fire him. To do anything else is playing a game of semantics…and this is the biggest one to me he said that my brother is the finest ‘X and O’ coach he has been around in his 25 years in the business. Okay listen (CEO Alex Martins) all you have done in your 25 years in the business is release press releases and run the business side. You don’t know if a ball is blown up or stuffed. You don’t know if the pick and role [sic] coverage on the side is right or wrong. Just say that I have no knowledge about basketball….He doesn’t know one thing about basketball so please hold off your comments on my brothers expertise since you know nothing about basketball.”
Wow, that is absolutely vicious. Van Gundy is essentially saying that Martins doesn't know a thing about the franchise he serves as CEO for. That makes a lot of sense, because how many top level executives like Martins are so hands-on with the actual on-field product? At the end of the day, it's the GM's job to put a winning team on the field, and it's the CEO's job to set the budget and not fool around with personnel moves. The efforts of Martins to keep Howard, who proved himself to be an absolutely toxic personality this season, shows that he just doesn't know what makes a winning team. It almost reminds me of the LeBron James situation in Cleveland before he went to Miami, in that you had the star player who needed a supporting cast, and just couldn't get it done with the upper management in place.
At any rate, Van Gundy speaking out so loudly about a situation as mainstream as the Magic's bloodletting in order to *attempt* to keep their star player is a welcome change from the usual batch of flip flopping and non-decisive comments from media personalities at ESPN. Van Gundy's personal relationship in this situation clearly resulted in his objectivity being thrown out the window, and he went off, but it's a good thing for everyone involved that he was willing to speak out and be honest about the situation instead of not commenting.
[h/t: SI Tracking]