Tuesday , Feb , 12 , 2008 Oly Sandor

Playing With Fire: Why Stan Van Gundy Can’t Publicly Call Out Dwight Howard

It doesn’t matter that Van Gundy was right. And it doesn’t matter that Howard later agreed with him.

The coach is playing with fire. Little is gained by going through the media (my editor and journalism professors are rolling over in their graves right now). Even the most professional of players -let alone a superstar- tune out coaches who dish dirt to reporters …

Playing With Fire: Why Stan Van Gundy Can't Publicly Call Out Dwight HowardMy AM Take: Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy must have missed the memo. You know, the unofficial document stating that NBA coaches never publicly call out superstars. 

Check out Van Gundy’s criticism of franchise stud Dwight Howard following last night’s loss to Cleveland:

"To me, it’s a matter of focus," Stan Van Gundy said. "His focus is on the offensive end — he gets discouraged when he doesn’t get the ball. I know the numbers prove that what we need him to focus on to win is defense and rebounding. But that’s not what he wants to do right now, and so we’ve got a little bit of a conflict."  (The Associated Press)

It doesn’t matter that Van Gundy was right. And it doesn’t matter that Howard later agreed with him.

The coach is playing with fire. Little is gained by going through the media (my editor and journalism professors are rolling over in their graves right now). Even the most professional of players –let alone a superstar- tune out coaches who dish dirt to reporters.

Consider the next time Howard struggles. Reporters will mob Van Gundy like he’s Britney Spear, baiting him with questions about his center’s play. Things could get weird.

Then there’s the issue of leverage. Howard has pull within the organization. Last summer, the All-Star and franchise face approved management’s firing of former coach Brian Hill. If beef develops between Howard and Van Gundy, sideline bosses are replaceable, great players aren’t.

Perhaps, I’m over-analyzing Van Gundy’s comments. There is a reason for the NBA’s unofficial memo regarding superstars. Going forward, he’d be best served to abide by it.

Was Van Gundy wrong to criticize Howard? Get at us in the comment box below with your thoughts. The AM Take is Oly’s morning thoughts on the NBA appearing Sunday through Friday on HoopsVibe.com. Errors can be attributed to the time and his need for another coffee. Click here to read and subscribe to his blog.