On Monday afternoon, the Orlando Magic did what many expected them to do for some time. They fired Head Coach Stan Van Gundy and announced that the organization and General Manager Otis Smith mutually decided to part ways.
Although the Magic have been ousted from the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, Van Gundy’s coaching ability can’t be questioned. Since being hired in 2007, Van Gundy led the Magic to a 259-135 record in five seasons. The Magic also made the postseason in all five of Van Gundy’s seasons, posting a 31-28 record. The Magic also won three Southeast Division titles and one Eastern Conference Championship under Van Gundy’s watch.
Van Gundy helped many NBA fans learn a different way of playing the game. His offensive strategy in Orlando was to take the league’s best big man in Dwight Howard and surround him with four shooters. When the Magic acquired Rashard Lewis in 2007, many wondered what the Magic would do with him considering they already had a Small Forward in Hedo Turkoglu. The Magic inserted Lewis into the Power Forward as a “Stretch Four” and immediate success followed. In Van Gundy’s first season, the Magic defeated the Toronto Raptors in five games in the first round of the playoffs, winning their first playoff series since 1996.
Van Gundy rode that style to an upset of both the defending champion Boston Celtics and the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers a year later, sending the Magic to the NBA playoffs where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in four games.
Van Gundy’s offensive philosophy showed that shooting a lot of three-pointers isn’t bad thing. In fact, it’s efficient! In Van Gundy’s five seasons, the Magic finished ninth, eighth, second, and 10th in offensive efficiency before falling to 14th in this injury plagued season. They finished second, third, second, sixth and fourth in effective field goal percentage during that same span.
For those that believe you can’t win playing that style (and many national pundits constantly say it), the Magic proved people wrong – they did win. They were in the 2009 NBA Finals and returned to the Eastern Conference Finals the next season. They have the fourth best record in the NBA over the last five seasons.
Plus, Van Gundy’s teams were even better on defense, finishing 11th, first, first, third and 13th in defensive efficiency during Van Gundy’s tenure.
Simply put, Van Gundy is the greatest coach in Orlando Magic history.
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(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him onTwitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here)