The Magic are already in a high-alert mode now with the Dwight Howard situation coming to a head. News like this will not bode well.
Orlando Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide is stepping down from his position effective immediately. Dave Pingaloire of WKMG reports Rich DeVos' sons will take over for Vander Weide, although speculation continues that current COO Alex Martins will take over the position (David Baumann also reports Alex Martins will be promoted... there is a press conference later today, although I have not received a press advisory yet). It is not clear what will happen at the top of the business pyramid for the Magic.
Then the story got strange.
Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM and David Baumann of Bright House Sports Network reported Vander Weide made a 1 a.m. phone call to Dwight Howard either Tuesday or a few days ago. And Vander Weide was allegedly drunk when he did so.
Those two reports say it all. This has gone from upsetting and distressful to ... I don't know how to explain this. This kind of mismanagement from the person who is pretty much running the franchise and rubber stamping every move the team makes shakes you to the core. I cannot think of any other way to explain this.
UPDATE: Vander Weide confirmed to Baumann that he called Howard "after a few glasses of wine" and that perhaps he should have waited untilt he morning.
Yes, it is great we have an ownership group that is passionate and wants to do whatever it takes to win. Great. Vander Weide was always a little goofy (if you have ever been to the Magic's Black Tie and Tennies Gala, you will have seen his janitorial alter ego) and a personable guy. He rose the ranks in the Magic as a business saavy son-in-law to owner Rich DeVos. But he was not such a horrible proxy owner. With DeVos getting older, he gave Vander Weide the freedom to rubber stamp massive spending.
Even Vander Weide was smart enough to have Otis Smith bring the Gilbert Arenas trade to "the family" as Smith described it on the day the trade was made last year.
But this... If this report is true, it shows just how dysfunctional the Magic have become.
We knew the team was in trouble with all the money being poured into Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu for their underperformance. We knew the team was all in with the way the team has spent the last two years too. But it seemed like, at least until last year, the money was well spent. That is not the case anymore and the Magic are desperate in trying to please Dwight Howard. And it does not seem like they have the pieces to do that.
More importantly, there is no direction at the top. Vander Weide has pretty much been the proxy owner with DeVos slowly shifting ownership duties to Vander Weide and his children. Martins might become the new CEO, and it would be well deserved for him -- Martins rose from the media relations department to COO, this guy knows the Magic business front and back. His greatest success was getting the arena built. He will do a good job.
The bad news is, the Magic are working to keep Dwight Howard and the future of the franchise is very much at stake. And the team is running around with its head caught off almost literally. Martins has to step in quickly and set a direction for this franchise from the top-down.
And if you are Dwight Howard, are you in for this uncertainty? Are you in for a franchise that, while showing how much it wants you to stay, seems so unprofessional and disorganized at the top right now?
Luckily Martins has been around and is familiar with everyone on the roster -- he is as much a face for the front office as Vander Weide was. That could work in Orlando's favor. And Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports Otis Smith met with Howard today in the wake of this news. What they discussed remains a mystery (as it probably should).
This is not good news though. It is comical to see how unprofessional and disorganized the team is at the moment. The Magic are something of a laughing stock on Twitter right now. And rightfully so if these reports are true.
Ditching your CEO at one of the most critical points in the franchise's history does not bode well. It further legitimizes the feeling that Orlando is a minor league stop for superstar players. Who wants to be here long term with this mess?
I just cannot stop shaking my head at this report.
If Howard ends up leaving, fans will blame Bob Vander Weide. And I get the feeling a report like this could really shake the fan base to its core. It could be a long time to get people back. The perception is going to rule over whatever actually happened. And how do you get the fans back when there is zero faith in everyone in the front office?