Jacque Vaughn believes in the power of positivity. He was trying to develop a bounty of young players in Orlando using minutes as the water, hard word as the good soil, and positive comments as sunshine. There certainly were some successes, players such as Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton have developed well under him.
But the Magic did not coalesce as a team — they are a bottom five team on both offense and defense, they are 15-37 and have lost 10 straight.
That led to Vaughn getting fired on Thursday.
So who is the next coach in Orlando? (Well, after interim coach James Borrego.) What direction will the organization go?
Expect a yeller.
Maybe that’s too harsh. Still, don’t expect the next coach to be the kind of guy that puts his arm around a player and has a few encouraging words after a rough night. Expect a coach who gets in players’ faces, who is very vocal about accountability, who is a bit of an old-school disciplinarian.
Management is saying all the usual things about casting a wide net and getting the best available guy, but what they seem to be looking for is a bit of a culture change in that locker room. Keep the work ethic, but aside that a dramatic change of style. By the way, do you notice how often the franchises that struggle keep changing cultures rather than letting one take root? That’s the bigger picture issue in Orlando — the issues with this roster are certainly not all on Vaughn — but in the short term they likely are going for an 180-degree shift in coaching philosophies.
Here are four names to watch:
1) Scott Skiles. This is the guy Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, and everyone else, says looks like the front runner because he checks a lot of boxes for the organization. He checks the box as a popular former Magic player that the fans will embrace. He checks the box as an old-school disciplinarian. He checks the box in that his teams defend with energy. That said, his offenses have not been great, and he’s pretty much been a career .500 coach whose teams have never gone past the second round of the playoffs in his 13 seasons.
2) Mike Malone. Another name mentioned by Wojnarowski. This is the coach the Sacramento Kings brought in to create a real culture of accountability and toughness — and he did that. He got DeMarcus Cousins focused and playing the best ball of his career. So the Kings fired Malone in the middle of this season because they wanted to change their style to more of a running team. (To repeat: Do you notice how often the franchises that struggle keep changing cultures rather than letting one take root?) Malone would check the boxes as old school and a disciplinarian, plus he showed some real success in Sacramento doing what they want to do in Orlando.
3) Vinny Del Negro. Another guy mentioned as available by Wojnarowski. He’s been available for a while. The advantages he has is that he’s a fantastic interviewer who sells himself well as a player development guy, and he’s likable. To be fair, he’s a better coach than his reputation, he’s gotten teams to be respectable (it’s just the guys who came in after him got those teams to be a lot better). All that said, this would be a terrible hire for Orlando.
4) Mark Jackson. Because his name must come up for all coaching vacancies. It’s a federal law. He’s a motivator and the Warriors certainly did play defense for him, two things that would work in Orlando. But I don’t love this fit either, I’m not sure he’s the guy to develop this young roster.