Why would he step down now and leave new team CEO Alex Martins holding the bag, er, ball?
Why in the name of keeping Dwight Howard would Bob Vander Weide step down from his longtime position as the Orlando Magic's top executive?
Rumors and rumblings whizzed and whirred on social media Tuesday.
Was Vander Weide's oddly timed "retirement" because of personal issues?
Because of a falling out with Dwight over a late-night phone call?
Or maybe because he just wanted to spend more time with Urban Meyer's family?
"It was just time," Vander Weide said during a phone conversation with the Sentinel Tuesday. "… I realized I had other aspirations outside of just pursuing trophies."
Color me cynical. After all, we've seen the Magic try to put a positive spin on front-office turmoil in the past. Let's not forget when controversial former general manager John Weisbrod was fired and the Magic tried to paint it like he was leaving to pursue his dream career in hockey. One problem: Weisbrod didn't even have a job in hockey at the time. Seriously, does anybody leave a multimillion-dollar position as an NBA GM for a possible job as an entry-level college hockey scout?
Likewise, Vander Weide leaving now doesn't quite feel right either — not this close to one of the most critical crossroads in franchise history. Dwight is in the process of making a decision about whether or not to re-sign with the Magic. Vander Weide confirmed he had a late-night conversation with Dwight on Monday after playing paddle tennis with friends and having a couple of glasses of wine. Contrary to reports, Vander Weide told the Sentinel he wasn't intoxicated but admitted "maybe he should have waited until the next morning" to return Dwight's phone calls.
He went on to say the conversation with Dwight was "amicable … candid … not aggressive … not negative."
Then why now?
Why retire from a job he was always so passionate about?
Vander Weide absolutely loved being the Magic's Mark Cuban. He is dashing, good-looking, athletic, charismatic and outspoken. And he had a dream job that, quite frankly, wasn't overly stressful. The son-in-law of team owner Rich DeVos, he supervised the running of the Magic from the family home in Grand Rapids, Mich. The actual day-to-day running of the team fell upon Martins and GM Otis Smith.
Now the entire future of the franchise falls upon Martins, too. He is now officially the new boss and has been entrusted to successfully execute "Operation Keep Dwight in Blue and White."
He will either be the man who rode in on the white stallion and helped Otis Smith keep Dwight in Orlando or he will be the man responsible for rebuilding the franchise after Dwight leaves
If you want to put one person in charge of leading the organization through these tumultuous times, Martins is your guy. He has already saved the franchise once. Can he do it again? He is the rising star in the Magic's executive branch — smart, smooth and politically savvy. He is the man mostly responsible for influencing city and county leaders to get the new arena built.
The question is can he and Smith influence Dwight to stay and keep the arena full?
"We're going to give Dwight every opportunity, every asset and every reason to be here for the rest of his career," Martins says adamantly. "… But in the end, it's his decision."
Martins knows the stakes. He was with the Magic on the day Shaquille O'Neal was drafted — and on the day Shaquille O'Neal departed. He assures Magic fans that Dwight will not be a Shaq sequel. This time, the Magic will trade their franchise player if they have to.
"Shaq's departure was not something that was a highlight for this community or this organization," Martins said, "and we certainly don't want to see that happen again. But I would commit to you that it will not happen again. Our goal is to make sure Dwight is here for the rest of his career, but, regardless, we won't have another situation that is the same as when Shaq left."
Good bye, Bob Vander Weide.
Good luck, Alex Martins.
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