The Orlando Magic, as you all may know, have been over the salary cap for several years now. Owner Rich DeVos has admitted he'll pay whatever it takes to hoist an NBA championship as he recognizes he doesn't have many years left. Just 18 years ago, the NBA salary cap was $15 million. That's it. And even then we were pushing the cap boundaries as our salary was around $17 million. Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas, Vince Carter, and Rashard Lewis each all make more than that in a season.
Chuck Daly. The most revered and highly respected coach in Orlando Magic history. Coach Daly was coming to the end of his glorious NBA road as Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers just had our number back then. Larry Guest got to have the honor of riding to Amway Arena with Chuck. Daly, in 2 short seasons as Magic Head Coach, really had become a master of dodging bad downtown traffic. Daly would retire not long after that piece. He would succumb almost exactly a decade later at age 78.
I think Stan Van Gundy could use some glowing support right now, which is what he received from Billy Donovan on the tail end of Stan's first season steering the Orlando ship:
"As far as getting that team to take the next step, I don't think there's any question Stan Van Gundy was the right coach for the job," Donovan said from his office in Gainesville. "You have to have a level of humility in this situation and face facts. And the facts are Billy Donovan has never coached an NBA game in his life. There was obviously going to be a learning curve for me. The job Stan has done this year has been phenomenal, and the job he did with the Miami Heat doesn't get talked about enough."
The Donovan debacle seems like a harmless and humorous practical joke now when viewed through the prism of Van Gundy leading the Magic to their most successful season in more than decade. Time may not heal all wounds, but 52 wins, a division title and the first playoff series win in a dozen years certainly does.
It was nearly a year ago when the Magic seemed as if they were in utter disarray. President Bob Vander Weide and GM Otis Smith had just fired Brian Hill -- for the second time -- and then watched in disbelief as their incredible Donovan coup blew up in their faces.
In the span of 24 hours, Donovan went from former Gators coach to current Magic coach to former Magic coach to current Gators coach.
As it turns out, the consolation prize was better than the grand one. Now that the Magic have Stan the Man they can laugh about Billy's willies.
"I can say now it's great that it happened the way it did, but back then, I wouldn't want to put anybody through those 72 hours," Vander Weide said. "It was crazy."
As for Donovan, he claims he has not second-guessed himself a single time, even though he has been the butt of a million jokes in the past year.
Back in the summer of '07, Otis Smith had chosen the new successor of Brian Hill, in Billy Donovan. Donovan was looked upon as a god for the championships he'd won with the Florida Gators. Otis tapped his shoulder and Billy accepted the job. About 24 hours later, he'd change his mind and resign. Talk about pure humiliation for Otis and the franchise.
So it came as a surprise to many that we still managed to salvage things by grabbing Stan Van Gundy just a few days later. The former Miami Heat Assistant and Head Coach was supposedly the Sacramento Kings' top target. Somehow the Magic were able to persuade Stan in taking the position. The results speak for themselves, 4 seasons of competitive basketball, culminated so far by an '09 Finals trip.
This upcoming 2011-2012 season will truly be the first in which Stan Van Gundy will be in the hot seat to turn the team's fortunes around and hopefully help keep Dwight Howard in town.