The Sixth Man: Van Gundy liberates himself by outing Howard

Let's face it, any profession in which an employee makes more money than his boss is a little out of whack.

George Costanza's secretary may be the exception to the rule but in the real world there are organizational flow charts and each move up the corporate ladder is usually accompanied by a salary bump and an ensuing level of power.

Technically Stan Van Gundy is Dwight Howard's boss in Orlando but D-12 makes a heck of a lot more coin than his mentor and is a lot more important to the bottom line of the Magic.

Moral of the story?

When the star turns on you in pro sports, it's time to fire up the laptop and update things at Monster.com.

Perhaps resigned to his ultimate fate, a certain calm came over Van Gundy at the Magic's shootaround on Thursday. Fed up with a team he believes may be tanking in order to ensure his demise in Central Florida, Van Gundy took off the gloves. The only thing missing was the psychiatrist's couch as the coach vented.

He reminded me a little of Popeye. It wasn't a can of spinach that empowered Stan but his ever-present Diet Pepsi seemed to give him the courage to speak out about Howard's maneuvers behind the scenes.

A fresh round of reports from Orlando's WKMG stated Howard had told team officials that he will not remain with the organization long term unless Van Gundy is gone. That fueled one reporter to ask the coach point blank if his superstar had indeed attempted to get him fired.

"I know he has," the coach told a stunned group. "I was told it was true by people in our management. So, right from the top."

Pressed what he thinks the Magic's brass will ultimately do, Van Gundy responded, "Obviously, it'll be a management decision. They have to make the decision, but I ain't worried about that. It's 12:02 right now, if they want to fire me right at 12:05, I'll go home and find something to do. I'll have a good day."

Unaware that he has just been outed, Howard sauntered over to the media scrum and eventually denied the charges after an awkward back and fourth with his soon to be ex-coach.

The big man walked up to Van Gundy in a surreal scene and put his arm around the coach he wants axed before saying "Yeah, Stan, we're not worried about that, right?"

"That's what I just said," Van Gundy responded. "We've got to be worried about winning games."

Howard echoed that: "Yeah, what's our main concern right now?"

"We have to stop Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks tonight," Van Gundy continued before asking if the assembled reporters had any further questions for him. "You can talk to him now."

Only then was Howard informed that Van Gundy said he wanted him gone.

The All-Star referred reporters to a previous statement he had made to ESPN in which he denied the allegations.

"What did I just say yesterday?" Howard said. "I know you guys watch ESPN."

After collecting himself, Howard went a little further: "The only thing that we're concerned with is winning a championship right now," the center said. "Whatever happens at the end of the season is not under my control. I am a player for the Magic. I am not the GM. I am not [team owner] Rich DeVos. I am not Alex Martins."

Affected or not by the comments, Howard and his teammates sleepwalked their way to a season-high fifth straight defeat, falling to New York 96-80.

Howard returned to the lineup after missing two straight games with back spasms, but went scoreless in the first half and finished with just eight points.

"My job security is not what is important right now," Van Gundy said after the latest setback. "What Dwight wants is not what's important right now. What's important is we focus on getting better as a team."

But that hardly seems likely now that the horse is out of the barn.

The Magic's five-game skid is their longest since January of 2007 and they have now fallen to the sixth spot in the East.

As for Van Gundy, if he wasn't owed a significant amount of money for next season, he would have likely pulled a Mike D'Antoni at the shootaround, put down the Pepsi and sauntered off into the sunset.

Instead he was talking about what bothers him:

"The only thing that I'm ever uncomfortable with is bull-[expletive]."

Well slip on the boots Stan, you'll be trying to avoid it for at least a few more weeks.