Dwight Howard denies role in firing

“I hate to see anyone lose their job,” Howard told TMZ. “… Me and Stan … we had our ups and downs … but for the most part we had one goal … to win a championship in Orlando, but we fell short.”

In early April, Van Gundy claimed top-ranking team officials had told him that Howard had asked management to fire Van Gundy as a condition of the center signing a long-term contract beyond 2013. Howard denied it.

Magic CEO Alex Martins addressed that dispute on Monday, saying, “At no time during that time did Dwight ask me to have Stan fired.”

“I’m glad [Martins] confirmed I had nothing to do with it,” Howard told TMZ.

The Magic fired Van Gundy on Monday and agreed to part ways with general manager Otis Smith, severing ties with two of the architects of one of the most successful runs in franchise history.

Smith and Van Gundy’s relationship with Howard was the centerpiece of drama the team faced all season, and following the Magic’s second straight first-round playoff exit, Martins said the shift was warranted.

Not everyone is buying Howard’s claim, however. Jeff Van Gundy, an ESPN NBA analyst and Stan’s brother, said Thursday in an interview on 98.7 ESPN New York that he believes Howard had a direct impact on the decision.

“To hide behind the fact or try to make everyone believe that Dwight Howard didn’t have a part in this is absurd,” Jeff Van Gundy said. “Say listen, we fired this guy because we know this our best chance to keep Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard and [Martins] decided to fire him. To do anything else is playing a game of semantics.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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