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Dwight Howard: Stan Van Gundy moment 'worst day of my life'

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Howard's Van Gundy impression brings down the house (1:56)

Dwight Howard has fond memories of playing for Stan Van Gundy as he recounts stories from his time playing for him. (1:56)

It remains one of the strangest coach-player interactions to unfold in the public eye, when a towering Dwight Howard approached Stan Van Gundy and rested his arm over the veteran coach's shoulder, saying everything was gonna be just fine.

The problem was, Van Gundy had confirmed to the gathered pack of media a report that Howard had sought his firing from the Orlando Magic.

On Thursday, six years later, Howard recalled the moment in a guest appearance on ESPN's The Jump, repeatedly calling it part of "the worst day of my life."

"The first question is like 'Dwight, they said you wanted to get Stan fired.' I was like 'Oh, my God,'" Howard recalled. "That was literally the worst day of my life. We had a game that night. And that was the worst game I ever played. Like, I could not hit the basket for nothing. And you would have thought -- I don't know what was going on that night, but it was the worst ever.

"So, man, shoutout to Stan, man. Shoutout to Stan, man."

It was April 5, 2012, and the Magic were battling through a losing streak, that night dropping another game to fall into sixth place in the East. The box score shows Howard played 40 minutes in a 96-80 loss to the New York Knicks, limited to eight points on 4-for-8 shooting with eight rebounds and five fouls.

Howard told The Jump that he had been standing aside as Van Gundy talked to reporters, when some in the media advised him to show that he was OK with Van Gundy.

"They said, 'Hey you should go put your arm around Stan and let everybody know you all are OK,'" Howard said. "So I was like, 'OK, I don't have a problem with Stan.'

"So I go out there, put my arm around Stan, he says a little line, I say something, and he just jets out of there."

Replays of Van Gundy's pregame news conference show several microphones set up in front of the coach -- and on the other side, a significant media scrum.

"When it comes out that one of the highest-profile guys in the league has asked his coach to be fired, it's going to be a story," Van Gundy told reporters that day, shortly before Howard walked up on the media gathering.

"Yeah, Stan, we're not worried about that, right?" Howard said.

"That's what I just said," Van Gundy replied after taking a long draw from a soda can, before quickly sipping another. "We got to be worried about winning games."

"What's our main concern right now?" Howard said as he wrapped his right arm around Van Gundy, before looking across the room for then-teammate Jameer Nelson. "Jameer?"

"We have to stop Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks tonight," Van Gundy said before Howard repeated in lockstep: "And the New York Knicks."

The Magic fired Van Gundy a month later, after losing a five-game, first-round playoff series to the Indiana Pacers.

"That day, they said me and Stan had has some beef or something like that, where I wanted him fired," Howard recalled Thursday to ESPN's Rachel Nichols, Kevin Arnovitz and Jorge Sedano. "And I was like, 'What? I never said that.'"

Howard then related a locker-room story, doing a comedic impression in which Van Gundy walks around the room pointing and calling each player "scorer!" until he gets to center Marcin Gortat.

"Thinks he's a scorer!" Howard relays in a squeaky, high-pitched voice, adding that Gortat quickly became angry. "You're not a scorer, Marcin!"

Howard also recalled once being called into Van Gundy's office, where the coach requested that Howard boost his blocks per game by three.

"And I'm like, 'OK, Stan.' But Stan is animated, man. Shoutout to Stan Van Gundy," Howard said, pounding his fist into his palm -- with a smile.

Van Gundy was let go by the Detroit Pistons last month after they missed the playoffs in three of his four years on the job. Van Gundy had been serving in a dual role as president of basketball operations and head coach.

"We never really had a bad relationship," Howard said. "You know, he's just really intense when it comes to basketball.

"And when he loses, if you've ever seen Stan after a loss, you're like, 'Oh, my God, this guy is crazy,'" Howard recalled before again going into his impression of Van Gundy. "'Ahh! I don't want to talk to nobody!' He's going crazy. But other than that, Stan is awesome. The stuff that he's done politically has been great."

After his ouster from the Magic, whom he had coached for five seasons, Van Gundy sat out two seasons before joining the Pistons. Van Gundy, who holds a 523-384 career coaching record, has also coached the Miami Heat.

"I have no issues with Stan," Howard said. "You know, we went through that thing in Orlando, I think a lot of people blew it out of proportion. But Stan is a great guy. We had some great times together."