You have a superstar that changes his mind on if he is going to stay or go on a daily, weekly and month basis. You have a G.M that your superstar has little faith in because he really has done a lousy job. Still you find a way to win basketball games. Just like George Karl did a fantastic job last season with the back drop of the Melo Drama, Stan Van Gundy has done an even better job with the Magic. It is so ironic that he was in fact the second choice of the Magic in the first place. Billy Donovan was Magic coach for about a week before he, or was it his wife, decided that he would remain coaching at Florida. So the Magic had to settle for Stan Van Gundy. Who at the time might have not even been considered the best Van Gundy coach in his own family. He had been pushed out of Miami, so Pat Riley could ride in on his white horse and win another championship. Stan Van Gundy is never truly respected for how good he is in reality.
Orlando's second choice as coach took them to an NBA Finals and lost to the Lakers. While this season under far from ideal circumstances has taken the Magic to a 24-14 record and they sit fifth best in the conference. He dealt with his G.M making stupid trades for guys like Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas and a much lesser version of the Hedo Turkoglu that left Orlando for big bucks here in Toronto. Stan probably has little say in what ultimately will happen to Dwight Howard by March the 15th. Still he has done the best thing that anyone could do in convincing him to stay and that is win basketball games. Stan Van Gundy has done just that. I can't help but think he feels a bit upset with Howard for wanting to leave. If not with him than with Otis Smith for letting this situation get out of hand. In many ways Van Gundy is the man in the middle. He will also be the man that has to deal with the fallout of this situation no matter what it ends up being.
He also is one of the more entertaining coaches to watch on an NBA Sideline. He never looks completely happy even if his team happens to be up 20 or down 20. Howard in the past has said he wishes that Stan would be more positive with the team. I just think the chances of that happening are about as good as Dwight leading the league in free throw percentage. What Van Gundy has been able to do with a line-up that by Dwight Howard's standards is not good enough is pretty impressive. When Ryan Anderson is your team's top scorer behind Dwight that speaks to Howard's unhappiness and to Van Gundy's ability to coach. It is not meant to demean what Anderson has done at all. He has been one of the few players on this Magic roster, to show improvement and be worth more than what they are paying him.
While this could be the last time you see Dwight Howard in a Magic Jersey at the ACC you will still see Stan Van Gundy when the Magic return to Toronto on March 26th after the trade deadline. It makes you wonder when Stan Van Gundy will have enough and want to go to a better place that respects him for what he is. Which is one of the better coaches in the NBA. Doc Rivers cut his teeth in coaching in Orlando before landing the job in Boston. Van Gundy had his chance at title stolen from him in Miami, he had another chance to get a ring in Orlando with a group with less talent overall. His record overall speaks to how good a coach he is with a record in his 8th season coaching of 358-193 and a playoff record of 47-35. He has never missed the playoffs in a full season that he has coached. That would appear to be the case this season as well regardless of the fate of Dwight Howard.
The Raptors can only hope that Dwane Casey can someday have a record that looks as impressive as the one Van Gundy has in his career. He likely doesn't get the full credit he deserves based on the fact he has always had a star player to carry the load for his teams. However he finds a way to get the most from that and demands a lot of everyone, from the best player on the team, to the last guy on his bench. However the guy that Van Gundy is the most hard on is actually himself. He is one of the more under appreciated coaches in the NBA. Dwight Howard owes Van Gundy a ton of credit for pushing him to do more and be more. It would be very easy for a guy like Dwight to just get by on his obvious gifts and talents. But even in a season in which he has had one foot half out the door, Stan Van Gundy has still got the best out of Dwight Howard. Which is impressive and something the Raptors never could do with Vince Carter.
As for the Raptors chances tonight? They could be a lot better on March 26th after the trade deadline than they will be tonight. Last I checked Dwight Howard will still be showing up in an Orlando Jersey. He is a force that Raptor fans are all to aware of. He had some of his best games in the NBA battling against his friend Chris Bosh, with both having some pretty memorable battles. Now his Magic team face a situation similar to one the Raptors had with Chris Bosh. The Raptors ultimately never traded Bosh and went all in for a push for the playoffs. Bosh would get injured and the playoffs never came. He would exit stage left for Miami. The Magic should make the playoffs no matter what at this point. However, do they do it with Howard and risk watching him walk like Bosh and James did in Toronto and Cleveland? That is a question that Otis Smith needs to have an answer for by March 15th.