Search for Magic’s GM, a search for identity


The Magic are still looking. Or, perhaps, the better phrase is the Magic are still making a decision, for a new GM. Brian Serra of Magic Basketball Online reported Tuesday that the Magic were likely to name a GM by the end of the week.

That may not have happened, but I was told by a source that Stan Van Gundy would be fired by the end of the week after management had their postseason meeting… Van Gundy was fired the following Monday. If that is the team’s m.o. is, we might have a new general manager Monday. …

Or, we might not. Don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up. It could be a while longer or not. Who knows?

Rest assured, Alex Martins has been travelling around interviewing several candidates. His latest was reportedly a Wednesday or Thursday interview in New Orleans with former Hornets general manager Jeff Bower.

The Magic, if you believe the reports and the lists of general managers that are out there, have a pretty strong list already. Bower is experienced and did some good work with New Orleans in a market that is not exactly high on many free agent’s places to live list. His experience probably gives him an edge and he got the Hornets to play at a very high level with Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and David West.

However, the work that Spurs assistant general manager Jeff Lindsay or Thunder assistant general managers Troy Weaver and Rob Hennigan cannot be ignored, and they would be very capable as first-time general managers. Pacers general manager David Morway (he has the title, but answers to team president Larry Bird) is also thought to be a favorite.

All these guys know what it will takes. There are a number of secondary candidates the Magic are surely considering should they not get the guys at the top of the list — and if there is not a new GM by the beginning of the week, I would suspect it is because they will have moved on to the second-tier of players and struck out on the guys they really want.

Of course, there is nothing to suggest that is true, that is just my feeling considering the Magic have yet to begin the process of interviewing coaches.

What has become clear as the Magic near the end of the GM search is what they are looking for in this new look team.

With or without Dwight Howard, the Magic plan to do something different with their whole basketball operations department and the way they build a team. Why the did not do it this way before or why it didn’t work is another issue entirely. But the Magic want to lay down a program and philosophy that will turn it into a championship organization. That is why they want to bring in a general manager and a coach with championship pedigree.

They want an environment that breeds winning. That is why the team has focused on guys that come from the Spurs family — like Lindsay, Weaver and Hennigan (Thunder GM Sam Presti was a former Spurs guy). Orlando may or may not be building from scratch, but they can begin the reformation of the franchise on that principle.

J.J. Redick, in an interview on Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi’s radio show on WYGM in Orlando, seemed to hint that the culture of winning had changed and that the franchise was not operating on the same level it was during the 2009 Finals run and the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals run.

“Yeah I don’t think we were as unified as we could’ve been and maybe that is an understatement but there were some issues. We had a great culture the years that we won in 2009 and made it to the Finals. 2008 where it was kind of our first year winning 50 games for Stan’s first year. 2010 when we made it to the Conference Finals again and I really enjoyed our locker room. Those were three teams that I loved being around.

“In ’08 we had guys like Keyon Dooling, Tony Battie, who had great approaches, were professionals, MP (Mickael Pietrus), Marcin (Gortat), Courtney Lee and myself, we had young guys in ’09 and really the 2010 team to me was my favorite team I played on because we just did everything as a team and it was my one year where everybody kind of bonded on and off the court and then for whatever reason the culture has just changed over the last two years and that certainly affects the locker room.

“I can’t say it was outright arguing but look there were some issues. I think if you watched us play this year you knew that. You don’t score 66 points in games and lose by 30. That doesn’t happen five times in a season unless there’s some issues.”

h/t Chris Fedor of Sports Radio Interviews

Redick here is not implicating any individuals or saying that the locker room atmosphere was bad in 2012. It was just… different. And certainly very different than those two championship years.

Certainly last season showed a whole ton of cracks up and down the franchise. There were constant leaks and a sense that Orlando as a franchise was simply working to appease Dwight Howard and convince him to stay. They may have been doing that or they may not have. Reports and rumors were saying Otis Smith and Stan Van Gundy were ready to trade Howard before ownership stopped the process and decided to go all-in for talking with Howard and convincing him to stay.

It is not hard to guess which two people are out of a job now.

Now that the Magic are trying to back themselves out of this corner and draw a firmer line in the sand when it comes to Howard in his extension, the franchis is ripe for a culture change. One that is not going to be beholden to a single player and what he thinks the team needs, but one that is firmly committed to winning a championship.

This includes valuing the Draft more and being sure to get quality players so aging, and often high-price free agents, are not necessary for constant building and re-tooling. This includes holding onto trade assets and getting the most out of those deals and showing some restraint in offering free agent contracts.

More than anything, though, this will take an overhaul of the team’s overall franchise philosophy. Orlando has made more a move toward this in the last 5-6 years, but everything within the organization has to be on the same line and the same page. Everything has to be directed toward winning a championship.

This kind of overhaul is not necessarily a guarantee for success. Remember, Jon Weisbrod came in talking about establishing a franchise that was tough and would play hard. After years of simply trying to mix and match pieces around Tracy McGrady, this seemed like a breath of fresh air. Then he misjudged what toughness was and brought in Steve Francis. That did not work out so well.

It seems winning a championship takes an organization that has a philosophy of how the team is going to play and then executes personnel decisions that make that philosophy come to fruition. Weisbrod had the philosophy and not the execution. Otis Smith had the philosophy and execution for a three-year run and then succumbed to appeasement and panic, abandoning the philosophy that took the Magic so far.

To be sure, this new GM will bring a new identity of sorts to the Magic. He gets to pick his own coach and begin rebuilding a franchise that seems in shambles.

Fortunately, it seems to be finding its way. What path the organization takes will be determined when the team makes this hire.