Plenty of blame is being pointed around for the Magic's struggles this year. No one could have dreamed Orlando would finish struggling to reach 50 wins after two consecutive seasons at 59 wins. In Orlando last five games, the team will need to go 4-1 to reach the 52-win mark Stan Van Gundy achieved in his first season with Orlando.
You can go up and down the roster and front office and find people to assign blame -- from Otis Smith all the way down to Chris Duhon. That, perhaps, is not the best exercise with the playoffs coming up and the fate of the season yet to be determined.
That is why it is hard to evaluate Stan Van Gundy at this point.
He has had a lot on his plate this year from managing title expectations, managing various injuries throughout the year and managing new players after the complete overhaul of the roster in December. Van Gundy has probably fallen short in acheiving these tasks. Undoubtedly, this is the worst season in his four-year tenure with Orlando.
At least, nationally, Van Gundy is being assigned perhaps more blame than he should (or perhaps less blame than he should depending upon your views of Van Gundy). ESPN's TrueHoop Network had a roundtable evaluating the surprises and disappointments in coaching this year. Van Gundy's name came up often on the disappointment side and the coach coaching with the highest stakes this postseason.
Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: "Even with the significant roster changes, Stan Van Gundy's Magic should be on the other side of 50 wins at this point in the season. Orlando doesn't look like a contender, and much of the responsibility for that has to fall on Van Gundy's shoulders.
Rahat Huq, Red94: "Van Gundy for the Magic's imminent stagnation in the face of an impending Howard free agency."
It is difficult to decide how much blame to put on Van Gundy. It is likely something to re-assess at the end of the year.
He said at the beginning of the year he was taking a long-term view of the season and trying to have his team pace itself more and build toward the postseason. That approach has certainly failed, especially after the trades when he had to make adjustments on the fly.
Van Gundy certainly has areas he needs to improve. There are complaints about his inconsistent rotations and his inability to adjust his offense to new personnel, or even to use the personnel he has in the most effective way. Certainly Brandon Bass could have played a bigger role last year, as he has shown this year.
But Van Gundy also earns his keep in the postseason, where he has shown (so long as his team executes it) the ability to put his players in position to succeed.
Right now, I feel execution and energy is the problem with the Magic. That is not so much a problem with the coach -- although it may be signs Van Gundy's hold on the team is waning -- as it is with the players going out and executing.
It is hard for any team to be focused when you are pretty much locked into your postseason position. Orlando is four games ahead of Atlanta for homecourt advantage with five games to play. Miami has already clinched the Southeast Division. And the Hawks are also four games ahead of the sixth-seeded 76ers with five games to play. Orlando and Atlanta are destined to play each other.
The team right now is playing against itself. Van Gundy certainly does not like that. He is a perfectionist. He wants to -- and should want to -- see strong play each and every night.
Van Gundy's job is safe. Orlando just signed him to an extension and certainly do not assign enough blame on him for the failures of this season (at least not without Dwight Howard telling him so). He is clearly (very clearly) the best coach in the franchise's history.
This season fell short of everyone's expectations (so far). I believe giving Van Gundy a training camp with this group will also be supremely beneficial too. He is very good when he has the time to instill his principles and strategy with his players.
For sure, Van Gundy will be trying to reprove himself next year.