Magic's Van Gundy: Howard wants me out
"That's just the way it is. Again, I've been dealing with that all year. It's not anything real bothersome. You go out and do your job," Van Gundy said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
As his team prepared to face the Knicks on Thursday night, Van Gundy said the request from the All-Star center has been confirmed to him "by people in our management right from the top."
With reporters stunned at the turn of events during what they thought would be a routine briefing, Howard then walked up to Van Gundy and put his arm around him, seemingly unaware of what had just happened.
Earlier this week, WKMG-TV in Orlando reported that Howard would refuse to sign a long-term contract with the team unless Van Gundy was dismissed as coach.
Howard walked over to the media intent on disputing the WKMG report.
"You guys should stop with every other week it's trying to find something, because there's nothing," said the 26-year-old after a team shootaround.
"There's nothing. I haven't said anything to anybody about anything. Our main concern is winning. So all the other stuff should stop."
The three-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year had already denied the WKMG report to ESPN on Wednesday.
Van Gundy, who is in his fifth season as Magic head coach, maintained he will still be able to focus on coaching amid the clear rift with his most important player.
"It's not a matter of being committed to me," he said.
"It's a matter of being committed to the team and trying to do everything you can to help the team win games. That's all I'm concerned with. As far as the other stuff, I don't think that matters. I don't need love and support here at my job. I'll turn to my family for that. I don't need these guys giving me hugs and pats on the back."
The Magic head into Thursday night's contest having lost four in a row to drop to 32-22, fifth in the Eastern Conference. The losing streak began last week at Madison Square Garden, where the team was blown out 108-86 by the Knicks.
On the heels of the loss, the New York Post reported several Magic players, including Howard, had been at New York City clubs into the wee hours of gameday.