After a 25-win season in 2014-15, the Orlando Magic hired no-nonsense coach Scott Skiles to bring some discipline and accountability to the locker room, and some wins to the record. The next season under Skiles the Magic won 35 games, then after the season Skiles unexpectedly left the team after having issues with GM Rob Hennigan, particularly about the use of a few players and their value.
On his way out the door, and even before, Skiles warned Magic ownership about the soft team culture under Hennigan. The Magic brought in Frank Vogel as coach and he ran into some of the same issues as Skiles, got the team to only 29 wins, and this time it was Hennigan who was let go after the season.
Speaking with the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins said Skiles gave them warnings about the team culture under Hennigan and the also let go GM Scott Perry.
“Scott certainly had his concerns; I don’t think that was any secret,” Martins said when I asked if he should have listened to Skiles instead of Hennigan. “He made that very well known. He and I had several conversations about things during his tenure here.”
From talking to people close to the situation and listening to Martin’s public comments, it appears Skiles felt Hennigan and Perry coddled players and undermined the coaching staff’s ability to instill accountability. Skiles is a no-nonsense basketball lifer who didn’t like the work ethic of his young players or the culture created by the inexperienced Hennigan….
“There were things Scott could have done better and one of them is that he could have been more patient,” Martins said. “We were clearly having those conversations [about the culture] and working toward solutions, but Scott didn’t want to be patient about it.”
You can’t blame him, because coaches are usually the ones let go, not the GM. Part of what changed is that Vogel was a proven winner who knows how to build a strong team and culture, and he had a four-year contract. Vogel wasn’t going anywhere, so Hennigan was.
There was surprise around the league GM Perry was caught up in the house cleaning, he was well respected by other teams. Perry reportedly had pushed for a trade that would have brought the Magic DeMarcus Cousins for Nikola Vucevic and either Evan Fournier or draft picks, but Hennigan shot the idea down, worried Orlando couldn’t re-sign Cousins and, ironically, about Cousins impact on team culture. New Orleans stepped in and made a trade for Cousins.
The Magic have said they are going to take their time and get the right GM in place, but there are key decisions coming this summer to turn this franchise around. That will start with the NBA Draft, where the Magic will have a high pick (currently fifth before the lottery). There also are decisions about whether to bring Jeff Green back, what free agents to chase, and to consider trades of guys like Vucevic or Terrence Ross.