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Steve Luhm: Dwight Howard's new trick? Making a coach disappear

Published April 7, 2012 1:59 pm

Magic • Van Gundy, Howard are captivating in awkward feud.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard did a superb job this week of focusing the NBA spotlight on the Magic, when everybody should be engrossed by an intriguing playoff race — lockout season or not.

Van Gundy's revelation during a post-shootaround interview that Howard has been trying to get him fired since the start of the season created more soap opera-like drama than President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

Come to think of it, the last time I saw two people look so completely awkward together on television was when Bill and Hillary Clinton made their first public appearance after the sex scandal story broke.

If you don't remember, it's fair to say Mrs. Clinton was not amused.

In Orlando, the stuff hit the fan when Van Gundy was talking about the Magic's upcoming game against the New York Knicks.

When asked about his future with the team, Van Gundy said Howard had wanted a new coach for months.

Where did Van Gundy hear such a rumor?

"I was told it was true by people in our management," he said. "So right from the top."

Unaware that Van Gundy has just told the world about his dirty little secret, Howard suddenly appeared at his coach's side and put his arm around Van Gundy.

With a smile on his face and television cameras still rolling, Howard asked, 'Stan, you're not worried about that, right?"

Everyone who witnessed the bizarre moment was stunned, which is understandable.

Suppose Benedict Arnold and George Washington showed up at the same news conference and — suddenly — B.A. tries to lighten the mood by throwing his arm around G-Dub.

See what I mean?

Van Gundy quickly tried to extricate himself from the latest carnival ride in the Magic Kingdom — Coach Quicksand — by telling Howard, "That's what I just said. We've got to be worried about winning games."

Van Gundy then made a quick exit, suggesting the media "talk to him now."

When Howard learned Van Gundy had squealed about his long-standing wish for a coaching change, he was apparently furious.

One story on his reaction even suggested that Howard felt like Van Gundy had thrown him under the bus.

If true, of course, that's like the dog that bit the mailman complaining about how his lunch tasted.

On Wednesday night, the situation took another strange-if-predictable twist during the Magic-Knicks game.

Howard, looking as interested as a fourth-grader on Friday afternoon, finished with eight points and eight rebounds in 40 minutes during the Knicks' 96-80 victory.

Orlando fans booed.

Transplanted Knicks fans cheered.

And Howard?

He sat on the bench in the closing moments, smiling and urging each fan base to get louder by waving his arms in the air while everyone awaits his next Magic trick: making a coach disappear.

luhm@sltrib.com Around the NBA

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