NEW YORK -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez did not shy away from the opportunity to publicly support his close friend Stan Van Gundy, the Orlando Magic head coach who revealed on Thursday that he had confirmed his star player, Dwight Howard, had asked for him to be fired.
"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 while talking to reporters before Saturday afternoon's game against the Mets at Citi Field.
Gonzalez and Van Gundy have remained in regular contact since developing a close relationship that dates back more than a decade when they lived in the same suburban Miami neighborhood. When they spoke on Friday, Van Gundy changed the topic by referencing the fact the Braves had been shut out in Thursday's Opening Day loss to the Mets.
"I asked him how it's going and then he said, 'You guys need to score some runs,'" Gonzalez said.
When asked about how he had responded, Gonzalez smiled and said, "I told him, 'Pitchers are ahead of the hitters.'"
Gonzalez was dismissed as the Marlins manager a little more than a month after benching Hanley Ramirez for loafing during a game in May 2010. While the incident might have played a part in his dismissal, he was lauded throughout the baseball world for taking control of a matter involving his star player.
"I told [Van Gundy] that I wish there were more owners who were ex-coaches and ex-players like [new Dodgers owner] Magic Johnson," Gonzalez said. "They would understand the dynamics of the coach-player relationship."