It was official yesterday, and more official today with Hennigan in Orlando and officially introduced to the media. Hennigan is the new general manager of the Magic and explained part of the vision that sold the DeVos family on his qualifications, despite his oft-cited age (I promise that will be the last time I mention it).
It is very similar to the programs developed and used where Hennigan has worked the last eight years — San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Those two franchises have built small-market dynasties and it was clear Orlando wanted that experience in their front office. Alex Martins said in the introductory press conference that this championship program experience is what he was looking for. He wanted someone who would establish a system and a program that would build a long-lasting NBA championship contender.
“Simply put, our goal is to build an elite basketball operation both on the court and off the court,” Hennigan said at his introductory press conference. “If we can stay strategic and stay systematic the end goal is to be sustainable. We want to create something that has some longevity and continuity to it. We want to put into place a basketball operations department and players that this city and all of Central Florida can rally around, support and be proud of. We’re going to embrace the daily grind and embrace chipping away at trying to get better. It”s a humbling exciting day and I’m ready to get to work.”
This is something Orlando has gotten away from the last two years. There has been no, as Martins put it, systematic approach to building a basketball team. It has been a haphazard mesh of bloated contracts and veterans that has failed to deliver a championship and brought the Magic to the precipice of losing their star player — assuming winning is his top priority.
Hennigan seems committed to the program that built the Spurs and the Thunder into championship contenders.
This means strong talent evaluation and drafting. This means, as Hennigan put it, making sure every move made is part of the plan and sets up the next move. This means expecting a championship every year, but being patient enough to build it. Hennigan said the Magic will be process-based and process-driven and systematic in their decision making. There will be no rushed moves as a team tries to hold onto a perceived chance at a title.
It will not be easy, that is for sure. The first task is finding a head coach — a search that will begin immediately, but may not end before next week’s NBA Draft. The big task is talking to Dwight Howard and trying to sell him on the new vision for the Magic, hoping he will sign a long-term contract to become part of it.
The Magic are done being short-sighted.
After the 2009 Finals appearance, Orlando went grasping for straws. The franchise tried to cash in and win a championship quickly. The 2009 core was getting broken up anyway — Hedo Turkoglu was not worth the deal he ended up getting and Orlando will end up finishing — but the spending spree the team went on put it all in. Things only got worse when the franchise tried to cash out on this team and make a quick turn without thinking of stepping back to reload for a championship.
Hennigan seems to understand this is a game of chess. And, sometimes, you need an out or a retreat to reach check mate.
This has been what the Spurs and the Thunder have done. They have rarely gone for the splashy move and have gone for the smart move, the one that always seems to move the team closer to a championship.
Hennigan impressed the DeVos family with his vision and his drive. That is how he climbed so quickly (DIDN’T MENTION HIS AGE!) in the NBA ranks. Orlando has a new vision for what it wants. It is not satisfied with just getting to the Playoffs anymore. It is not satisfied with being a regular season success or consistently mediocre.
The Magic want championships. They want multiple championships. They want to do it the right way and in a new way too.
Orlando is not unfamiliar with having a philosophy in its building. Remember Jon Weisbrod came in wanting a team with toughness — he just pegged this toughness on Steve Francis and failed to connect with his team or basketball staff members. Otis Smith had a philosophy too with Stan Van Gundy. That was abandoned when the team got its championship chance.
Orlando may take a step back to get there. That is what is natural when you are close to losing a superstar player and trying to change philosophies.
Hennigan though has the talk right now. He has the vision. Now it is time to see if he can put that vision into practice.