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Magic fire Van Gundy, GM Smith

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Magic fire Van Gundy, GM Smith

ORLANDO, Fla. -- For months the Orlando Magic have been trudging through the aftermath of a preseason trade request by Dwight Howard that sapped the life out of the franchise as internal team issues quickly affected the product on the floor.

Now after easily one of the most tumultuous seasons in their history, they made the first in what promises to be a huge offseason shake-up

The Magic fired coach Stan 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 their second straight first-round playoff exit, CEO Alex Martins said the shift was warranted.

"It's time for a new leadership and a new approach," Martins said at a news conference to discuss the moves. "We simply came to the decision that we were not on the right track,"

Martins wouldn't go into many specifics about what he is looking for in replacements, saying only that he and ownership want to fill the general manager post by June's NBA draft.

He said he would sit down with ownership on Tuesday to begin ironing out the details of both searches.

Phone and text messages left with Van Gundy and Smith by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.

Orlando went 37-29 in the regular season but was eliminated in five games by Indiana after a rash of late-season injuries that included back surgery for Howard. Orlando went 5-12 without him.

Martins said those consecutive first-round playoff exits were "simply not good enough."

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.

Martins addressed that dispute directly, saying "At no time during that time did Dwight ask me to have Stan fired."

With a relationship with Smith dating back to the Magic's inaugural season when Smith was a player and a five-year relationship with Van Gundy, Martins also called Monday "the most difficult day of my career."

Both Smith and Van Gundy are under contract through next season and both of their contracts will be honored. The current assistant coaching staff has also been offered the opportunity to stay on for now.

Van Gundy coached the Magic for five seasons. He finished with a 259-135 record, going 31-28 in the playoffs.

Smith departs after six years. He was the architect of Magic teams that made it to the playoffs in each of those seasons, winning the Eastern Conference championship in 2009. But he also made several questionable moves, including trades for Vince Carter and Gilbert Arenas that failed to work out long-term.

The day after the Magic's season ended with the loss to the Pacers, Smith said that he would need a few days to even decide whether he wanted to return to that position following the tough year, setting it as a "50-50" chance.

Van Gundy said at the time he wanted to return and was hoping that the ultimate decision would be about performance solely.

"When you're talking a professional relationship, what matters at least to me is the results," Van Gundy said. "I don't care if it's a business relationship where two people at work are driving a business to make money, or if it's a sports relationship, where the object is to win games."

But both also have acknowledged that this lockout-shortened season was trying for everyone involved.

"This season, and we've been digesting it all year, has been the longest, shortest season that we've had," Smith said. "But it's something that you have to go through. Most sports franchises at some time go through a little bit of uncertainty and this is our time."

Martins said that ideally the Magic's next coach will have a championship pedigree, though acknowledged that the search wouldn't exclude assistants or others who have experience. He said the same was true for the general manager position.

Martins was effusive in his praise as Van Gundy as a "great strategic coach," but acknowledged that one of the factors they want to see in a new coach is someone who is great at building relationships with players.

"Strategically we may not be able to find anyone better," he said.

Howard often commented about Van Gundy's grumpy demeanor on the floor, saying it was at times counterproductive for the team.

This past summer Smith met with Van Gundy and he left that meeting pledging to make improvements. It included him meeting with a Stanford University psychology professor for advice on how to be a better leader.

And it seemed to work, with Van Gundy incurring just one technical during the shortened regular-season, a low during his Magic tenure.

But it wasn't enough to save his job.

Now the attention shifts to Howard, who remains in Los Angeles recovering from his surgery.

Martins said team officials continue to be in dialogue with the all-star, but hasn't yet gotten an answer on whether he would like to stay beyond next season when his contract expires.

After a season spent in limbo before Howard finally opted into the final year of his deal, Martins has said the team won't repeat the same ordeal. That at least leaves open the possibility the Magic could trade him at some point should Howard not agree to sign long-term.

"I think the decision is on Dwight now," Martins said. "Dwight needs to decide where his future lies."
Copyright2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Round 1 of the 2018 NHL Draft.

They discuss the pair of puck-carrying defensemen that the Blackhawks selected on Friday, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin. When can we expect to see these first-round picks play in the NHL?

Boyle also goes 1-on-1 with Boqvist and Beaudin. The guys spoke with Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville on Friday.

The guys also share their biggest takeaways from those interviews, which includes your daily Corey Crawford update and Quenneville appeared excited that the team has plenty of cap space to spend in free agency.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.