Let the Dwight Howard hirings begin.
The Orlando Magic announced Monday that they have parted ways with coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith. Neither one was deemed worthy enough to remain employed by Magic center Howard, who has made no secret of his frustrations over the way the team was coached and the roster built in recent years. And with strong signs that Howard -- who has one year left on his contract -- was considering demanding a trade this summer just as he had leading up to the March trade deadline, the Magic have cleared the deck and will be making yet another attempt to hold on to their franchise centerpiece. Adding further insult to injury, the Magic lost in five games to Indiana in the first round of the playoffs after Howard had season-ending back surgery in late April.
But who is best to replace Van Gundy and keep Howard firmly planted in Orlando? Sources said Warriors assistant coach Michael Malone and Pacers assistant Brian Shaw will be strong candidates. Malone, who became known as a top-notch defensive coach during his years as an assistant in Cleveland and New Orleans, has already interviewed for the vacant coaching position in Charlotte and would be a candidate in Washington if the Wizards part ways with coach Randy Wittman. Shaw, a former Lakers assistant who was expected to replace Phil Jackson as Lakers head coach before the job went to Mike Brown, is on the Bobcats' list of candidates but is not known to have interviewed yet.
As for Orlando's general manager vacancy, former Knicks president and Pacers GM Donnie Walsh is expected to be a strong candidate for Smith's spot, and a source close to him said he would be interested. With Pacers president Larry Bird expected by most league executives to walk away after this season, Walsh has been considering a possible return to Indiana as well. Former New Orleans general manager Jeff Bower and Indiana executive David Morway also could be possibilities for Orlando.
The Magic's situation will likely have a ripple effect on the rest of the league if they move quickly. Among the possible ripples: Portland, which has interviewed Bower and Morway, now has incentive to expedite its general manager search and move on to its coaching search too; the Bobcats -- who have also talked with former Magic assistant Patrick Ewing, former Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan, St. John's associate head coach Mike Dunlap, Cavaliers assistant Nate Tibbetts and Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger -- can't take their time now either; and there are signs that Wittman may be on the way out in Washington, meaning the Wizards might want to make up their minds sooner rather than later.