Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins learns lesson with Scott Skiles departure


The stakes for Scott Skiles being a success were great for Alex Martins. His ultimate failure becomes an important teaching moment for the future.

As a savvy businessman, one can say with near certainty Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins has heard the old adage about not working with friends. Perhaps as it relates to now-departed Magic head coach Scott Skiles however, Martins threw out his copy of “100 Business Sayings to Live By.”

Going forward, it is fair to say the longtime Magic staffer has learned his lesson. No powerful man likes to be embarrassed.

“He was a fan favorite, and he was an Alex Martins favorite to begin with,” Martins said Thursday when addressing his feelings. “So I’m as disappointed as the fans are today that Scott made this decision.”

While people throughout the country comment on how Skiles’ hasty departure throws egg on the face of the Orlando organization, the entity they are really referring to is Martins.

The buck stops with the man at the top. And Martins cannot be fully without blame for this sudden and surprising departure.

Throughout Skiles’ yearlong tenure as coach with the team he once played for, Martins publicly tried to distance himself. He was insistent at the press conference last summer the hiring decision was general manager Rob Hennigan’s and Hennigan’s alone. Hennigan repeated Thursday as Skiles resigned the decision still rested from him.

Smarter minds knew and have suggested otherwise however, despite Martins’ repeated denials of his role in Skiles’ hiring.

When Jacque Vaughn was dismissed midway through the 2015 season, there was no question Skiles used the outlets he was familiar with to express interest in the position. Skiles’ name quickly emerged as a rumored candidate seemingly the moment Vaughn was fired.

Rumors after Skiles’ resignation certainly shed light on just how that pursuit went, as NBA SiriusXM host Justin Termine outlined this week:

That job-campaigning effort led him to Martins, a man who was one of the team’s original employees much like Skiles was one of their first notable players. The coach who had had stops in Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee needed a powerful voice to convince Hennigan to make the hire.

After all, nothing in his basketball background would suggest Skiles would be the coach Hennigan would target.

Hennigan is an apple that does not fall far from the San Antonio Spurs tree. That means always looking for the next big thing, both on the court and on the bench.

A coach that had proven himself as a league-average coach during each of his stints while also wearing his players patience thin certainly would not fit that bill. Skiles always had a ceiling — even if that ceiling was someplace the Magic needed to stop first in their rebuild.

Fortunately for Skiles, Hennigan answers directly to Martins. All that was needed for a decision to be made in direct opposition with his ideology of innovation was some carefully placed nudging.

Who can ignore directives from their boss? Or even a well-placed recommendation?

This is why it does not make sense for those rabid fans seeking to pin this failure on Hennigan. Even Hennigan’s sharpest critics recognize how Hennigan was hamstrung. Most of them in their real jobs would also take a boss’ suggestions in stride.

They might even follow them to such a point that it puts their own career in peril. That is where Hennigan stands now, destined to see his constructed roster either make the playoffs or be out of a job.

Quickly running out of time and with his back placed further against the wall due to Martins’ affinity for a former Magic point guard, Hennigan enters an already big summer with another franchise-defining decision. One he has to get right to save his job in any form.

To his credit, Martins tried to patch the relationship between his forward-thinking GM and a coach who progressively looked more like a relic of the past as the season wore on.

There was the late April retreat the trio took that he served as a conduit at. This may have been standard — a way for the higher ups to recap the season and close the book before moving forward. It turned into the task of assuaging Skiles’ reservations about the roster and looking to move forward with this important offseason.

Even in the final hour, Martins admitted at Thursday’s press conference he tried to talk Skiles back from the ledge of professional suicide. His attempt to convince him to stick with the Magic plan that morning was all for naught.

Leaving a franchise with several people who went to bat for Skiles behind the scenes livid at this shocking result.

Certainly, Martins has had a tremendous business career that should be viewed more substantially than the emotional misstep with Skiles.

His contributions to the off-court product in Orlando cannot be undersold. Had Martins not been in place to navigate the always murky waters of politics, the Amway Center may not currently stand at the mouth of Church Street.

Those who accomplish much do not get a free pass away from criticism however, not that that should matter to Martins. He is experienced enough to be able to adjust his approach without hearing from the dissenters.

Next: Scott Skiles and the consequences of 'quitting'

The personal dissatisfaction of seeing a longtime friend quit on what you envisioned as a shared mission to rehabilitate basketball in Orlando is more than enough.