It was time for Orlando Magic to fire Rob Hennigan

May 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan talks with media as Frank Vogel is introduced as the new head coach during a press conference at Amway Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
May 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan talks with media as Frank Vogel is introduced as the new head coach during a press conference at Amway Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

After a disappointing season started with big expectations, the Orlando Magic must make a decision and must move on from general manager Rob Hennigan.

A change was in the air five years ago. And the Orlando Magic had an uncertain future. The only thing that was certain was their need to trade Dwight Howard.

Their coach, Stan Van Gundy, had burned about every bridge in the front office in that infamous press conference. His team had fallen from championship contender to Playoff also-ran with a disgruntled star. It was no surprise when the ax came down on him. And it was less surprising when general manager Otis Smith followed shortly after.

Orlando knew its situation. It was either going to have to take a lesser star to stay relevant or go through a complete rebuild.

The team entrusted a then-31-year-old assistant general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Rob Hennigan looked like he was fresh from college. He arrived with the Thunder pedigree ready to rebuild the Magic into a contender.

He took over knowing full well his first big move was to hire a coach to set the team’s culture and to trade Dwight Howard. He preached patience and an “organic” rebuild. He wanted to go through the draft, seeing it as the path for a sustainable winning team.

The Magic had their taste of winning in 2009 and wanted more of it. And wanted it to be more than flash in the pan like their other title runs. Hennigan’s plan had a lot of promise.

He wanted to build a team with a defensive, athletic identity. It would come the same way those Oklahoma City teams came — by raising players through the draft with a coach growing with them through each step.

The plan seemed sound. The actual execution would be the tough part. And ultimately his failing.

Five years after Hennigan first laid out his plan with the promise of growing a star and becoming a permanent fixture among the NBA’s elite, the Magic have not gotten anywhere. They are more or less where they were at the beginning.

The team showed some signs of improvement going from 20 to 23 to 25 to 35 wins. The progress was slow but steady. The Magic were a flawed team but still with hope and room to improve.

The pressure to win became too great. And the Magic failed to rise to that pressure.

Rob Hennigan failed to rise to that pressure. He failed to deliver.

And after seeing the rebuild’s progress stop in 2017, the Magic are faced with one clear choice. They must move on from Rob Hennigan and find a new direction this summer.

It appears they have with Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reporting Thursday the Magic have fired Rob Hennigan.

No matter where it came from, the Magic wanted to make the Playoffs and speed things up to deliver something tangible to the fans. It was a fair request after four years of moderate gains and improvement.

The transformation from the organic rebuild began last February when the team gave away Tobias Harris, a promising young player Hennigan mined from obscurity deep on the Milwaukee Bucks’ bench.

This was the biggest signal of change. The biggest signal for the end of the rebuild. Those tangible results were all that mattered.

Ultimately the task of building a team, no matter the goals, directives or timelines falls on the general manager. With the team promising a Playoff berth, it fell on Hennigan to make the moves to get the Magic to that place.

His moves this summer were bold. He went after proven defensive players to force that identity he first envisioned. The team had a clear road map to the Playoffs if it could follow it: Play strong on defense and use that as the ticket in. Elite defenses tend to make the Playoffs.

What no one calculated was the changing NBA and just how poor the team’s fit would be. The Magic flopped defensively and they had one of the most frustrating and disappointing seasons in the franchise history.

Worse still, the Magic do not have a clear path forward. Their remaining draft picks from that three-year trip to the Lottery are still raw and developing. None seem to have a clear path to stardom. The team seems to have an unclear direction forward.

The Magic’s season for the first time in five years was an absolute failure. There was no progress to show or point to in 2017. The march forward has stopped.

For this reason, Hennigan’s job is on the line and deservedly so.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

And for this lack of progress and for this stagnation, it is time for the Magic to move on from Hennigan.

It may not have been his decision to push the pace for the rebuild and put all his eggs into this season. But it was ultimately his responsibility to deliver. And ultimately his failure.

The question CEO Alex Martins has to ask as he determines how to move the franchise forward is whether he believes Hennigan can lead the team forward. The answer would seemingly be no. The franchise has already shown some lack of trust in speeding up the rebuild deviating from his patient build.

The decision is clear on many fronts.

First, there is a bit of saving face that has to happen. The past two years, the Magic have promised the Playoffs. In both seasons they failed to achieve this goal. This year, not only did they fail but they did not take another step forward. It is hard to point to any progress from this team.

Secondly, the Magic clearly did not like the direction they were headed after four years and changed course drastically in year five. Facing this ultimatum, Hennigan put together a mismatched roster that struggled for any kind of consistency, failing that initial goal.

Their plans and their process may have been sound, but ultimately the decisions have not created progress. the Magic are seemingly stuck without a clear or strong future.

At this point, it feels like the Magic need a new voice to make these decisions. The ideas and process Hennigan used to build the base no longer clicks.

Sometimes it is just time to move on and get a new perspective on the same problems.

The Magic are at that point. It is time for them to move on and find a new voice to lead them. They need new eyes on the problem and a new approach to solve it and get the Magic back on track.

Hennigan may have made logical decisions. In isolation, he may have made the right decisions. But the overall picture does not look good. It looks downright bleak.

The buck has to stop somewhere. Someone has to pay the penalty for the struggles this year. And the answer is pretty clear.

Next: The Orlando Magic's season in three charts

It is time for a change in Orlando.