Orlando went into the post Dwight Howard rebuilding process trying to do what a lot of franchises have done: Build a San Antonio Spurs style franchise.
To lead that effort they went out and picked Jacque Vaughn off the Gregg Popovich coaching tree and told him to develop the young players and build a culture of winning. That master plan may have only worked in Atlanta. It certainly hasn’t worked in Orlando. The Magic entered this season expecting steps forward and maybe a playoff spot this season. Instead they have lost 10 straight, are 15-37 on the season and are out of the playoff conversation even at the bottom of the lowly East.
Finally on Thursday the ax fell, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
“Jacque (Vaughn) has been a trusted friend and colleague,” Orlando GM Rob Hennigan said in a released statement. “We thank him immensely for his contributions and sacrifices in bringing our team to this point, and we greatly appreciate his unwavering commitment to our organization. We have tremendous respect for Jacque and certainly wish him the best as he embarks on the next phase of his career.”
Rumored long-term replacements for Vaughn have been Scott Skiles and Mark Jackson, although there will be an interim coach before anyone else settles into the big chair.
However, he is the only holdover from Vaughn’s staff.
Look for a new coach to be named during the All-Star break when he can get in some practices. Also, look for the Magic to eye more of a disciplinarian coach, one less “player friendly” than Vaughn.
The timing of this move is not a coincidence. In-season firings often happen before an easy stretch in the schedule, and the Magic are coming up on one (the Lakers, Knicks, and Sixers among opponents soon). It helps the new coach get off on the right foot.
The Magic roster has some nice young pieces, and Vaughn deserves some credit for helping develop guys like Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, and rookie Elfrid Payton. But Vaughn hasn’t been able to turn that individual into growth as a team, and he hasn’t built a culture of defense — they are 25th in defensive rating in the league. He has struggled to use veteran players such as Channing Frye properly, and younger players feel they were not getting consistent minutes.
More than all that, this team has regressed through the course of this season.
The struggles are not all on Vaughn. For one, management’s constant leaks over the past couple weeks about Vaughn have not been all that professional or well handled. It cut the coach off at the knees. The roster construction isn’t great, and Vaughn wasn’t the guy buying the groceries.
But he didn’t do much with what he was given, he had a 26.9 winning percentage over the past two-and-a-half years.
Now that coach is gone, but it is on that management team to pick the right guy to turn these solid pieces into more than just the sum of their parts.