Labor Day is a critical time in the NBA. It is about a month away from the start of training camps and players begin trickling back into their various home cities and begin working out and playing with their teammates. These are usually done at the practice facilities and the coaching staff and trainers begin taking a close look at the roster and who will be ready for camp once the coaches can get their hands and voice to the team.
The major planning stages for the season get done right now during these doldrums of NBA news. The seeds are sowed right now, the watering is training camp and the season is growth.
The Magic offices are a little bit lonely right now. Orlando is a little bit behind thanks to the team’s exhaustive search for a general manager, then the exhaustive search to hire Jacque Vaughn and then the exhaustive negotiations to trade Dwight Howard.
Orlando is sticking to its long, exhaustive process. As Labor Day approaches, the Magic are still without a coaching staff and Jacque Vaughn is still piecing together who will help him lead and develop this Magic team this year and beyond.
Rumors do tend to trickle out though.
The Magic’s old coaching staff seems to be completely on its way out. Steve Clifford has already taken a job with the Lakers. Dave Pingalore of WKMG Channel 6 News reported that Mark Price, who coached Orlando’s Summer League team, will not be retained either. There has been no word on where Patrick Ewing, Brendan Malone, Bob Beyer and Ahmad Ajami.
There is very little to point fans in the selection process and Vaughn promised another exhaustive search at the Dwight Howard trade press conference, saying simply then, “No rush.”
“We are doing a good job of being patient and we will put the right staff together that’s meant to be around this ball club,” Vaughn said.
Rumors circulated when the Magic hired Vaughn that he may add Lindsey Hunter, another coaching finalist for the Magic’s head job, to his staff. Those rumors have quieted down.
The latest nugget came from Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. He reported that the Magic may add Wes Unseld, Jr. to the coaching staff soon. Unseld was an assistant coach with Mark Jackson in Golden State last year. He spent the six previous seasons as an assistant with the Wizards, where he got his start as an advance scout in 1997. His father is NBA Hall of Famer Wes Unseld.
Unseld very much has a player development background. And that seems to be what Orlando is looking for in its coaching staff. Hunter was director of player development for the Suns last year. These rumors seem to be pointing toward this conclusion that player development is the key for Vaughn’s coaching staff.
Last week, Schmitz reported the Magic were set to add Rockets assistant Brett Gunning to the staff as well. He was Houston’s director of player development the three years before joining the coaching staff last season. Gustavo Ayon tweeted last week his excitement that James Borrego was joining the Magic staff from the Hornets (translated below via Google Translate).
“Great news as assistant coach Borrego signed in Orlando. [He] was a great help to me in New Orleans. You want to be in Orlando.”
Borrego spent the previous seven seasons with the Spurs. He was on the coaching staff for the 2005 and 2007 championship teams. Borrego started with San Antonio as the team’s video coordinator (a major scouting position within the franchise).
Judging from this coaching staff of Unseld, Jr., Gunning, Borrego and possibly Hunter, you see a lot of player development expertise in there. With Borrego and Hunter, Orlando possibly adds some championship experience.
There have been very few other reports about who Vaughn could add. Like he said, I guess, there is no rush to fill out his coaching staff. Although, maybe, those deadlines are fast approaching.
There are still other important positions that need filling.
The first — and probably most important job — was reshaping the Magic’s scouting department. If Orlando is going to rely more heavily on the draft, it is the guys Rob Hennigan hires that will make the difference.
Hennigan’s first action as general manager was to fire the entire Magic scouting department. He then hired Scott Perry as his assistant general manager from the Pistons and Matt Lloyd for the front office. Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy was slated to join the scouting staff, but could not make the buyout in his contract. It seems the scouting department is still something of a work in progress. At least as far as the press and public information is concerned. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports also reported last week that former Magic player and long-time NBA veteran Anthony Parker joined the team’s scouting department.
None of the coaching hires has been made official and neither has the Parker hire.
There may be no rush to fill these positions, but the deadlines are quickly approaching. The season will be here before we know it.