Undermining the Orlando Magic’s Process: The Conclusion


The process of hiring Scott Skiles led to his own resignation and a breakdown of the process Rob Hennigan started. What have the Orlando Magic learned?

Ever since joining the Orlando Magic in 2012, general manager Rob Hennigan has attached himself to one buzzword you hear from him just about every single time he speaks: “Process”.

Hennigan has made it his mantra. Much more than the #TrustTheProcess crowd in Philadelphia and Sam Hinkie.

What exactly does Hennigan mean when he says “process?” Well, that will require some more of Hennigan’s favorite buzzwords such as “culture” and “vision.”

Rob Hennigan does indeed have a “vision” for this team. That, after all, is what he sold to Magic CEO Alex Martins and owner Rich DeVos when he was hired in the first place.

So when the Magic hired Scott Skiles to be the head coach after the conclusion of last season many people believed the hire to be a machination of CEO Alex Martins and something outside of Hennigan’s “process.” The whole thing did not feel right, no matter how many times Hennigan said the choice was ultimately his.

Now just about a year after this seemingly out-of-character decision, Scott Skiles resigned as the head coach of the Orlando Magic, citing “I am not the right coach for this team.”

The resignation, while shocking because of its timing, was not that surprising when considering how the process was undermined initially.

Many reports surfaced after Skiles’ resignation. All of them — for whatever value we can give them — focused on the power struggle between the front office and Skiles. There was a clear disconnect between management and coach.

And these are just couple of numerous Tweets depicting the real issue the Magic had with Scott Skiles. Skiles and Hennigan never truly saw eye to eye. They were never on the same page.

How is it possible a coach who was just hired did not see eye to eye with the general manager that just hired him?

The answer may very well be Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins. It may very well be that the uneasy feeling about the hire was true.

This was never Hennigan’s hiring. Not fully. It was the favored candidate of management — and one somewhat governed by a personal relationship and nostalgia.

If we look back at the initial hiring, it was clear Rob Hennigan was not conducting business as normal during Orlando’s coaching search. Ownership may have put some false parameters to bring in only a proven, experienced coach. They may very well have put Skiles’ resume on Hennigan’s desk, starting the wheels turning.

Now the Magic are dwelling in the aftermath of Martins’ making a decision based on personal relationships rather than smart business. He broke a cardinal rule of business. And the Magic are going to pay for his mistake in some form or fashion — either in the large salary a truly proven coach will cost or in the loss of reputation this Magic franchise has from having to replace their coach once again.

Contrary to most coaching searches, the Magic today are unprepared for their vacancy. They have had to move quickly to jump into this market.

Now, about a month after the season has concluded, and with six coaches off the board including Luke Walton, Scott Brooks, Dave Joerger and Tom Thibodeau, the Magic are now left picking from an assortment of leftover coaches.

Competing with the Magic for current openings are the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks, all who have had ample time and adequate preparation to move on from their current coaching staffs.

The Magic are only in this disadvantageous situation thanks to Skiles’ resignation and the seemingly uncomfortable relationship his hiring created. The Magic are now looking for their fourth coach in three seasons and probably do not seem like a stable opening for coaches and players alike.

The “process” was and still is broken.

Alex Martins hired Rob Hennigan to see his vision through. He bought into the plan and Hennigan’s process and decision making. He let Hennigan rebuild through the draft, he let Hennigan trade away some of Orlando’s good role players during the Dwight Howard era to clear the decks and start anew, he let Hennigan trade away veteran players so younger guys could step up.

All of this was part of the process. Each a step in a plan and grand vision for building a sustainable winner.

Martins nearly — and still may have — threw it all away when he de facto hired Scott Skiles. Skiles battled with Hennigan over the direction and composition of the team. He tried to push the timeline for competition before it was ready and force his vision rather than a shared long-term vision.

The relationship eventually broke. Whether it could actually be smoothed over or if Hennigan believed it had smoothed over, only the parties involved know.

Tobias Harris, Scott Skiles, Orlando Magic
Dec 23, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Scott Skiles talks with forward Tobias Harris (12) against the Houston Rockets during the second half at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Houston Rockets 104-101. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Orlando traded Tobias Harris for a couple of Scott Skiles’ old players (Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova) instead of younger, useful players or draft picks because Skiles needed his veterans and the Magic were desperate to stay competitive with the season already slipping away.

Maybe the Magic make the Harris move anyway to clear cap — the pressure to be competitive though was certainly something Skiles wants– and perhaps a reason he ultimately parted ways with the team.

From the outside, these moves all shouted that the process was being abandoned. Desperation and short-term gains had overtaken the long-term vision. That is how Skiles operates. And everyone knew it when he was hired to begin with.

The Orlando Magic now are left with egg on their face and a year of wasted continuity — even if the Magic end up hiring Adrian Griffin and keep most of Skiles’ staff intact.

Had Hennigan been able to hire a coaching staff on his own, he would know that his vision was shared by his staff and the Magic would not have to learn their third system in three years. This hurts the players and their development. It hurts the short-term gains the Magic’s management above Hennigan seems so desperate to achieve.

The Magic have suffered serious damage to their brand through all of this. And it feels like it all could have been avoided.

The damage is real, and the Magic need to do what they can to stop the franchise’s bleeding. Somebody needs to be held responsible for this unfavorable situation.

Related Story: Magic CEO learns lesson in Skiles resignation

In that light, the only way to truly fix the “process” and help the Magic recover as a brand is for Alex Martins to stay out of the way for now. He must let Rob Hennigan run through his process and implement his vision.

This hire must be his own.

That does not mean there cannot be expectations or that Hennigan should skate by if the team does not continue its progression. The team though has to get back on track with the man they trusted to get them there.

To win championships in the NBA, a team needs unity. This is something that was not present last year. Not when it felt like Hennigan did not have his choice of coach and there was always the specter Hennigan was not in full control of his vision.