For the past three weeks, the Orlando Sentinel has evaluated all of the Orlando Magic players and General Manager Otis Smith for their performance during the 2010-11 season. Today, we conclude our review with a look at the team's head coach.
Stan Van Gundy
Seasons as Magic head coach/NBA head coach: 4/7.
2010-11 regular-season record/overall regular-season record as Magic coach: 52-30 (.634)/222-106 (.677)
2011 postseason record/overall postseason record as Magic coach: 2-4/30-24
Praise: Van Gundy continued to be one of the most well-prepared, most diligent coaches in the NBA. During games it's common to hear him call out opposing teams' upcoming plays as he watches opponents bring the ball upcourt and settle into their halfcourt offenses. This past season, Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass made strides in their second years with the team. Anderson and Bass deserve the bulk of the credit for their improvement and for catching on to the system, but the coaching staff played a role in the players' development, too. For better or worse, Van Gundy was publicly vocal in defending center Dwight Howard for what Van Gundy viewed as uneven officiating in the low post. It's highly doubtful that Van Gundy's public support of Howard made a difference on the court — after all, an opponent wasn't whistled for a flagrant foul against Howard all season long until Game 6 of the team's playoff series. But, still, Howard did appreciate Van Gundy's support. And, finally, it's important to remember that the Magic won 52 regular-season games — the fourth time in Van Gundy's four seasons with the team that the Magic have won at least 52 games. Winning consistently counts for something. Indeed, Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide said he was happy with Van Gundy's performance in 2010-11.
Constructive criticism: No doubt Van Gundy and his assistant coaches faced an uphill climb in fostering team chemistry when the franchise added four players and jettisoned four others in a pair of mid-December trades. But, still, the Magic never seemed to jell completely during the regular season or in the playoffs. Indeed, of the three key players added in December — Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu — none of them ultimately met expectations. Free-agent signees Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson did not perform well during the season, and at least some of that has to be attributed to coaching. The Magic arguably didn't have the talent to compete at the level they're accustomed to, and the team certainly didn't match up well or shoot well against the Atlanta Hawks. But while Van Gundy made some valuable tactical decisions — for example, his play call at the end of Game 6 left J.J. Redick with a wide-open shot — the fact remains that the Magic didn't get over the hump and advance out of the first round. Finally, even Smith, the general manager, felt at least on one occasion — an early season loss to the Toronto Raptors — that Van Gundy was getting too frustrated with his players. Van Gundy made a genuine effort to improve, but it's fair to ask whether Van Gundy needs to continue to make further improvements in that area.
2010-11 grade*: C+
The future: As the roster is constructed now, the Magic probably are at least one impact player short from making a run to the NBA Finals in 2012. Still, Van Gundy and his coaching staff have to do more to make the team greater than the sum of its parts.
*grades evaluate how a person did in his expected role.
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