GM Otis Smith speaks out on feud

Dwight Howard did not ask Magic general manager Otis Smith to fire coach Stan Van Gundy, Smith told ESPN's Lisa Salters on Saturday before the Magic's 88-82 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

"He never asked me; I didn't have that knowledge," Smith said.

Van Gundy said Thursday he knew Howard, the Magic's franchise player, had asked that he be fired. Smith said both parties were to blame for the public dispute.

"If he did ask he's wrong, and for Stan to address it in public, that is wrong," Smith said.

Smith also confirmed Saturday that Van Gundy will coach the Magic through the rest of the season. But when asked if Van Gundy will return next year, Smith was less sure.

"Don't have the answer for that," Smith said. "I don't have the answer to who's going to be on our roster, either."

Howard made a case for returning next season on Saturday. The 6-foot-11 center, who was accused of quitting by TNT analyst Charles Barkely after scoring eight points with eight rebounds in a 96-80 loss to the New York Knicks on Thursday night, denied Barkley's allegation after Saturday's win.

"But I want everyone to know I've never quit on my team," Howard told Salters after the game. "(I) know I've had some bad games, (but) I'll never quit on my team. Everybody needs to know that."

Van Gundy, for his part, wants to return to Orlando next season, he told the Orlando Sentinel on Saturday.

"I don't have a scenario in my head where I wouldn't," Van Gundy told the newspaper. "They're going to have to make decisions. But I'm a basketball coach and I know this: I don't want to go anywhere else. I mean, I love Orlando, and this is where I want to be. And I want to coach."

ESPN.com reported before last month's trade deadline that Orlando's front office had given Howard the power to determine the fates of Smith and Van Gundy at the end of the season if he agreed not to opt out of his contract.

Howard decided against opting out and becoming a free agent after this season. But he has said he does not want the responsibility of determining the futures of Smith and Van Gundy.

On Friday, Howard and Van Gundy agreed to focus on the team's play on the court.

"I think we have respect for each other regardless of whatever is being said or being put out there," Howard said Saturday. "As a coach, I have the utmost respect for Stan. He's been a great coach on our team for the last five years. So I don't think that's the issue. I think whatever happened, whatever was said, was said. But the only thing we can control right now is tonight."

Smith agreed with the truce going forward this season.

"Dwight's gonna have to play and Stan is gonna have to coach," Smith said.

Also Saturday, Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez stood up for Van Gundy.

"I think the owner has to step up and sign Stan for a couple years more, unless Howard wants to take a pay cut and be the head coach," Gonzalez said before Saturday's game against the New York Mets.