NEW YORK – Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez pulled no punches Saturday morning when a pregame discussion turned to the ongoing controversy between Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, a friend of Gonzalez since the two were Miami neighbors years ago.
Van Gundy said Thursday that Howard went to Magic ownership to ask that Van Gundy be fired, the latest episode in a relationship that seems to be approaching an untenable state. Gonzalez said he spoke to Van Gundy by phone Friday.
“I think the owner has to step up and sign Stan for a couple more years, unless Howard wants to take a pay cut and be the coach,” Gonzalez said to a handful of reporters in the visitor’s dugout Saturday morning at Citi Field.
Gonzalez said during his discussion with Van Gundy, the Braves manager told him that he wished more owners were ex-coaches or ex-players, like Magic Johnson, so they’d understand the dynamics of the player-coach relationship. He said Van Gundy told him that wasn’t possible because most former coaches and players weren’t rich enough to be team owners.
Then Gonzalez mused about how he might have responded to Howard.
“I know what I would have said if he’d have walked into my office if I was the owner: ‘Get your a** back on the court and play. We’ll let the guys coach; you play,’” Gonzalez said.