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 championship in 2009. But he also made several questionable moves, including trades for Vince Carter and Gilbert Arenas that failed to work out long-term.
The day after the Magic’s season ended with the loss to the Pacers, Smith said that he would need a few days to even decide whether he wanted to return to that position following the tough year, setting it as a “50-50” chance.
Van Gundy said at the time he wanted to return and was hoping that 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.”
But both also have acknowledged that this lockout-shortened season was trying for everyone involved.
“This season, and we’ve been digesting it all year, has been the longest, shortest season that we’ve had,” Smith said. “But it’s something that you have to go through. Most sports franchises at some time go through a little bit of uncertainty and this is our time.”
Martins said that ideally the Magic’s next coach will have a championship pedigree, though acknowledged that the search wouldn’t exclude assistants or others who have experience. He said the same was true for the general manager position.
Martins was effusive in his praise as Van Gundy as a “great strategic coach,” but acknowledged that one of the factors they want to see in a new coach is someone who is great at building relationships with players.
“Strategically we may not be able to find anyone better,” he said.
This past summer Smith met with Van Gundy and he left that meeting pledging to make improvements. It included him meeting with a Stanford University psychology professor for advice on how to be a better leader.
But it wasn’t enough to save his job.
Now the attention shifts to Howard, who remains in Los Angeles recovering from his surgery.
Martins said team officials continue to be in dialogue with the all-star, but hasn’t yet gotten an answer on whether he would like to stay beyond next season when his contract expires.