Anyone hoping for Wednesday’s press conference announcing the retirement of Orlando Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide to go by quietly did not get what they wished for. Questions about Dwight Howard’s future and a recent phone call placed from Vander Weide to the superstar at one in the morning dominated the session.
The new Magic leadership structure was also announced promoting Alex Martins as the new CEO and elevating Dan DeVos to chairman. However, those were not the issues focused on during the near 40-minute presser inside of Amway Center.
When the question and answer portion began, Vander Weide was drilled with questions pertaining to that late night call placed to Howard just days ago. Some in the media have reported that Vander Weide was thought to be drunk when he made that call, but he vehemently denied those rumors.
“I had a couple glasses of wine,” said Vander Weide. “I had received texts and phone calls from Dwight and thought it prudent still to return the call. I was not drunk. ”
After his initial answer, questioning continued from WFTV reporter Daralene Jones. At one point, she even asked Vander Weide if he said things that were part of a parodied discussion made up by the sports blog Deadspin that was meant to poke fun at the phone call to Howard.
Vander Weide cited privacy as a reason why he would not discuss the exact conversation he exchanged with the All-Star center. He also said that his decision to step down has been made for some time and is not related to any recent incidents.
“We need to be clear on this,” said Vander Weide. “That phone conversation has not changed my relationship with Dwight. We like each other. We even love each other as people. That phone call has not changed his feeling about this organization. Third, and maybe not as important, that phone call has nothing to do with us being here today.”
The other half of the press conference dealt mainly with Howard’s future in Orlando. With Magic general manager Otis Smith sitting alongside Vander Weide, Martins, and DeVos, the majority of those questions were directed towards him.
All officials on the dais echoed the difficult of retaining Howard, while also remaining confident that enough could be done to keep him. Smith said that the organization has been in daily talks with Howard and his representation.
To illustrate how open the lines of communication are, Smith even joked that he might have had a beer when he talks to Howard, mocking the drunk-dialing allegations made against Vander Weide.
“Our objective right now is to keep [Howard] in uniform,” said Smith. “If that’s not the case, then we’ll move in another direction. That’s not Bob’s job, that’s not Dan’s job, that’s not Alex’s job. They’re going to assist me, but at the end of the day I have to do what is in the best interests of the Orlando Magic.”
No efforts to bring other major pieces in via trade or free agency were discussed. When questioned about Howard’s future ability to have patience with the organization, Smith was spirited in saying the ball was in the center’s court.
“We’ve done everything that we are supposed to do,” said Smith. “We are going to continue to put the best team on the floor to give the Orlando Magic a chance to win an NBA title. That does not necessarily mean we are going to listen to everything that Dwight has to say. At the end of the day, the decision will come down to him.”