Stan Van Gundy

Stan Van GundyWhat many expected to happened, has. The Orlando Magic announced Monday (May 20) that they’ve fired coach Stan Van Gundy.

Additionally, the team also split with general manager Otis Smith. Both departures are is the culmination of a soap opera season season centered around their superstar Dwight Howard and ended with a first-round playoff exit, reports ESPN.

“It’s time for new leadership and new voices,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said in a statement. “The disappointment of getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs these past two seasons played a primary role in our decision, as we feel our momentum towards winning a championship has paused.”

The 2011-12 season was one filled with controversy for the Magic. First, there was the issue over Howard’s future with the team, and whether or not he should be traded before the trade deadline because he has the option to become a free agent over the summer. Plus, there was also Smith and Van Gundy’s problematic relationship with the NBA superstar, which weighed down the team all season, especially after the All-Star center requested a trade early in the year.

However, just before the end of All-Star Weekend in Orlando, Howard signed a waiver, in which he promised to remain with the team through next season. This seemed to be resolve things, but other problems emerged, specifically word that Howard asked for Van Gundy’s dismissal as head coach.

In early April, Van Gundy told reports that Howard had asked management to fire Van Gundy as a condition for the center signing a long-term contract beyond 2013. Howard denied that statement though.

Whatever the case is, the tension between Howard and Van Gundy weighed on everyone, and may have been the deciding factor in the coach’s firing.. Now, a new coach will have to forge a relationship with Howard … that is, it he sticks to his word and remains in Orlando.

Right after their season ended, Van Gundy said he wanted to come back and was hoping the ultimate decision would be about performance solely.

“When you’re talking a professional relationship, what matters — at least to me — is the results,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t care if it’s a business relationship where two people at work are driving a business to make money, or if it’s a sports relationship, where the object is to win games.

“Those kinds of professional relationships should be based on results, not on do we like each other or whatever. So to me, the relationship was great. There’s a lot of wins and everything else.”

Van Gundy coached the Magic for five seasons. He finished with a 259-135 record, going 31-28 in the playoffs.

Smith departs after six years. He was the architect of Magic teams that made it to the playoffs in each of those seasons, winning the Eastern Conference title in 2009.

At press time, it was unclear who the Magic wanted to replace both Van Gundy and Smith.