Gator Nation needs victory over LSU to regain arrogance

Running off at the typewriter

Where is that old Gators arrogance and cockiness that used to be on display whenever the University of Florida played a huge football game? I've talked to a lot of Gators fans this week and the general vibe I'm getting is they just hope to keep it close today at LSU. "I'm afraid we're going to get torched," one UF fan even told me.

Back in the 1970s, the great scribe Dan Jenkins once wrote that Gators fans "have the arrogance of Notre Dame and the tradition of Wake Forest." Now it seems they have the arrogance of Wake Forest and the tradition of Notre Dame. Gator Nation needs to see a win today — a huge win — to get its mojo back. Will it happen? Don't think so. … Mikey likes LSU over Florida by 9, Missouri over Georgia by 3 in Upset Special, Oklahoma over Texas by 17, Oregon over Washington by 20, Broncos over Jags by the end of the first quarter, Eagles over Yucs by 5, Cowboys over Deadskins by 7, Saints over Patriots by 8, Red Sox over Tigers in 6, Dodgers over Cardinals in 7, MLS franchise awarded to Orlando by Halloween. …

Magic Johnson will no longer be part of ESPN's NBA coverage, which is the best news for sports television viewers since the invention of the recliner. Magic was a great NBA player, but as an NBA analyst he was more painful to watch than "Basketball Wives." If ESPN is smart, it will hire former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to replace Johnson. Van Gundy does a weekly appearance on our Open Mike radio show and is seriously one of the best analysts — on basketball, baseball, football or politics — I've ever heard. …

In honor of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded Friday, I'd like to unveil my first annual Nobel Fleece Prize. And winners are — drum roll, please — the Lakers, the 76ers and the Nuggets, who got fleeced and essentially ended up with nothing in the Dwight Howard trade while the Magic reaped some good young pieces, multiple draft picks and our favorite player of all time — Cap Flexibility! … Did you see where President Obama said the Washington Redskins should give up their racially insensitive nickname? And in related news, he said the Jacksonville Jaguars should just give up. … By the way, here is the best way to determine whether the Redskins should change their name: If you had Native American co-workers, would you feel comfortable walking up to them in the office and calling them "Redskins"? If you answer, "No," to this question, then the name should be changed immediately. If you answered, "Yes," to this question, then you'll probably end up in human resources one day either getting fired or reprimanded. …

Can you believe there will be a new bowl game added starting next season that will be played at Florida Atlantic's stadium in Boca Raton. Just wondering if an invitation to this game would be a reward or a sentence? … Condi Rice reportedly will be part of the selection committee for the new college football playoff system. At long last, she can finally say she's located those weapons of mass destruction. They're on Oregon's offense! ... So what will be the ailment that keeps Jadeveon Clowney from playing this week — strained cuticle or a runny nose? … If you go to OrlandoSentinel.com right now, you can vote in the 64-player bracket that has been set up to choose the greatest Magic player of all time. If Dwight doesn't win this thing, it's a crime. Dwight might not be the most beloved Magic player of all time or the most emotionally stable, but he is the greatest Magic player of all time without question. … By the time you finished reading this sentence, Eli Manning will have thrown three more interceptions.

Open Mike:

Don't forget, you can click on OrlandoSentinel.com and read the wildly popular Open Mike blog and interactive extravaganza to get my freshest takes on what's happening in the world of sports. Here's a blog on Dwight Howard crediting Stan Van Gundy for helping him choose the Houston Rockets:

Former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was one of the key advisors who helped Dwight Howard decide to sign with the Houston Rockets.

That's what Dwight Howard told reporters in Houston and what Stan confirmed to me.

From Dwight, courtesy of the Houston Chronicle: "I talked to Stan a lot during last season. During the offseason, we talked and he felt like the system that would fit me best and the coaching staff would be Houston. He said he liked [Kevin McHale]. He likes [Hakeem Olajuwon]. He likes [James Harden] and the fact that this is a young team. It reminds him of the team we had in Orlando, so he felt like this would be a good fit for me."

Howard went on to say that he now has a great relationship with the coach he tried to get fired in Orlando: "One side is business and one side is personal," he told the Chronicle. "On the business end, we probably didn't work well together toward the end of our careers in Orlando. But on the personal level, we have always had respect for each other. We have always been able to sit down and talk to each other."

Which is why he said he trusted Van Gundy's advice.

"He understands situations that are going to make me thrive," Howard said. "He knows me best. We were together for five years. We had great years together — great runs in the playoffs — so he understands what it would take to win. Stan is a guru when it comes to studying basketball. Getting advice from him has always been beneficial to me."

Van Gundy said he didn't come right out and recommend that Dwight go to Houston, but he did think the Rockets would play to Dwight's strengths.

"I did tell him I thought Houston was a system that would fit him well," Van Gundy said during his weekly appearance on our Open Mike radio show on AM 740 The Game.

Van Gundy then reflected on a relationship with Dwight that fascinates many Magic bystanders. When Howard played for the Magic he wanted Stan fired, but now Stan has become one of his most trusted advisors.

"The whole situation [at the end of their time together in Orlando] just wasn't handled well, and we both got beat up by it," Van Gundy reflects now. "Obviously, his reputation got beat up and I lost my job. It's unfortunate. We both probably could have done things a little bit differently.

"But I don't think either one of us was willing to let a couple of bad months destroy what was five good years together," Van Gundy added. "I have great respect for him as a player and it's nice to hear he has great respect for me as a coach."

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