Van Gundy, 52, said before the game at Amway Center in Orlando that members of management confirmed Howard’s demand. Howard denied the coach’s assertion.
The Knicks (28-27) hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference. The Magic (32-23) slipped to sixth place in the conference by losing five straight games for the first time since January 2007, six months before Van Gundy took over the team.
J.R. Smith and Toney Douglas came off the bench to contribute 15 points each for the Knicks, who had a 56-44 halftime advantage. New York hit 13 of 25 3-point attempts in the game.
Van Gundy was holding an impromptu news conference before the game when Howard walked in and embraced the coach, unaware of what Van Gundy had just said.
“I was told it was true by people in our management,” Van Gundy said. “So right from the top. I’m the coach right now, and I’m the coach until they decide I’m not the coach. It’s 12:02 right now. If they want to fire me at 12:05, I’ll go home and find something to do. I’ll have a good day.”
Howard denied he had requested that Van Gundy be fired.
“Whatever happens at the end of the season is not under my control,” Howard told reporters yesterday. “Why would I want Stan to be fired with 12 games left in the season? Who’s going to be the coach?”
Van Gundy’s contract expires at the end of the season.
“I’ll be fine,” Van Gundy said. “I can get another job. I have money put away, so there’s no concern about job security and there shouldn’t be any real concern about what Dwight wants right now, quite honestly.”
Last month, ESPN.com reported the team’s management gave Howard control over the future of General Manager Otis Smith and Van Gundy if the player agreed not to become a free agent this season. Howard signed a contract through next season.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Kercheval in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at email@example.com