On a Grantland.com podcast with Dan LeBatard and Jon Sciambi, Stan Van Gundy opened up about his tumultuous final season as coach of the Magic, and in particular addressed the awkward April 5th press conference in which an unwitting Dwight Howard put his arm Van Gundy moments after the coach told reporters Howard wanted him fired. In the podcast, Van Gundy praised Howard's effort to play despite his injured back before he was finally shut down last season. He said the press conference put Howard in a tough spot, but said he hoped getting everything out in the open would bring speculation to an end and allow the story to run its course, a strategy that fell apart when the injury ended Howard's season. Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com provides a transcript of some of Van Gundy's notable comments from the podcast, and we'll hit a few highlights here:
On his thoughts as the press conference took place:
"It was already a big deal before he put his arm around me. You knew the question was coming, so I had time to prepare for it. It's not like it came out of the blue [and] I just [answered] off the top of my head … I gave some thought to whether I was going to answer this honestly, or no comment or just lie. I thought it through, but I knew it would be a big deal. I didn't really know what happened with Dwight and I would become a bigger deal."
On his response to the question, "Does Dwight want you fired?"
"That in particular was calculated. What you're calculating is not what the media response is going to be or anything else. You're making your decision on what my team needs. I didn't break a story there. That story had been out all year. All I did, basically, was confirm it, get it done hopefully, and try in our locker room to get rid of the BS. Saying, look, 'I know what's going on. I'm not afraid of what's going on. We're going to go play basketball now and get it done.' That's what the calculation came down to."
On the Magic front office's reaction to Howard wanting him out:
"I knew the best approach was our management needed to resolve the situation one way or another. Fire me, extend me, or make some sort of statement. Our management chose not to do that. My choice then became, are we going to just let this go on? … Or are we at least going to bring some closure to it?"
"I don't have a problem with Dwight in the situation. He was given a forum by management to express his opinions. They decided to do that and he did it. I just had to deal with it as a coach, that's all. He's entitled to his opinion and management asked him what he thought at some point. Dwight always played hard."
On the rest of the team's reaction following the press conference:
"You could poll everybody. I think it actually played out the way I would have wanted it, with everyone. Dwight was obviously pissed off about it. The rest of them, I thought it played out the way everybody wanted it to… I think they got a respect. I think they had respect for me, anyway, but I think they got a respect of, basically, he doesn't give a damn. Dwight wants him out of here. He knows it, number one. He's not in the dark wondering what's going on. He's not naive, he knows what's going on. He wants to just stay focused."