Coaching continuity could be big piece to Orlando Magic rebuild

Jan 20, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel talks with guard Mario Hezonja (8) against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 20, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel talks with guard Mario Hezonja (8) against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic have had some instability on the bench with four head coaches in the last three years. Having Frank Vogel for consecutive years will help.

When the Orlando Magic enter training camp in October, they will have a familiar voice talking to them. Or, at least, if everything goes as planned they will have a familiar voice. The Magic thought they would have that this past summer before Scott Skiles suddenly resigned.

It is something easily taken for granted — and a sign of basic stability. Having the same coach from one year to the next is an advantage, albeit a simple one. But it is something the Magic have lacked, having a different coach in each of the last three offseasons.

Orlando has had four coaches in the last three years. The team has been very unstable since firing Jacque Vaughn in Feb. 2015. The Magic have Vaughn and James Borrego in 2015. Then hired Scott Skiles in 2016. His sudden resignation forced the Magic to search for a new coach and hiring Frank Vogel for the 2017 season.

It is something that has sent young players into a whirlwind as they have to spend time in the offseason learning and preparing for new schemes rather than coming in understanding the expectations and strategy.

"“It’s definitely difficult,” Aaron Gordon told Orlando Magic Daily. “It’s a challenge for sure. You want to be able to have something in place that you know. There’s always the chance something may or may not work. But you have to give it at least a chance to grow. Coming back and constantly having to prove ourselves to our own coaching staff. That’s something in the back of your mind as a player. It was nice to know Frank will be here. He’s a great coach and excellent assistant coaches as well. I’m excited.”"

Everyone around the team anticipates this continuity will help the team. As Aaron Gordon said, returning players will not have to prove themselves all over again (although, they will have to prove themselves to a new general manager and decision maker in the front office).

There will be a familiarity with the team and the coaching staff’s expectations. What the coaching staff told players to work on during the summer will be rewarded in the fall, if they meet those expectations.

It is hard to say exactly how much of an effect this coaching continuity will have. There are plenty of teams who eventually go stale with the same coach — ask the Indiana Pacers with Vogel to some degree — but having too many coaches in a short amount of time has a negative effect on the team.

Look at the Sacramento Kings — six coaches in six years with 28.7 wins per year — or the Minnesota Timberwolves — four coaches in four years with 29 wins per year. Neither of those franchises found much traction. Just like the Magic have not in this recent stretch. Some stability will go a long way.

"“I don’t think that’s a small deal,” Vogel told Orlando Magic Daily. “For these guys to not have a lot of coaching continuity. Even for me, with a whole new coaching staff, going into year two, everything will just be a lot cleaner, a lot tighter. The expectations of what I’m looking for and what is expected of our guys on the basketball court will be a lot clearer. I think we will have a big continuity bump.”"

This does not mean the Magic can roll back the same roster and immediately make the Playoffs. It is clear from looking at this team — both for the whole season and after the All-Star Break — that it needs improvement.

But undoubtedly familiarity will bring with it a win or two more. Just from not having to go through everything brand new in training camp.

The Magic are hoping that a focus on a style of play that showed signs of working later in the season and a training camp to drill it in can bring improvements too. With fewer new players to integrate, the team should be able to hit the ground running or start further along than they were last year starting from scratch.

That is the often taken for granted advantage of coaching continuity.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

So too is familiarity with the schedule. Frank Vogel noted at one point in the season traveling from Florida forced him to rethink some of his practice schedules. Having to travel such long distances and getting back home late had him changing his shootaround and practice schedules to steal rest and sleep for his team.

Familiarity will help the Magic create a better plan to combat this along with how to use the players on the team’s roster.

"“I think it was a tough position as well for him,” Nikola Vucevic told Orlando Magic Daily. “It was his first year. He needed to learn about everybody, get to know the guys. There were a lot of new players, he needed to make sure we were all together. It was a tough position. But I thought he did a good job trying to get us to play the right way. Until the end, we did the same things at the end. He didn’t quit. He kept pushing us. He kept trying to build good habits for next season. I think we needed that especially for our younger guys.”"

The familiarity will be a welcome sign for the Magic too.

Elfrid Payton said the teams that are competing in the Playoffs have had the time to grow together and with the same coach for several years as they made their breakthrough. Having the ability to grow together with the same coach is something the Magic have lacked.

Elfrid Payton — or his draft classmate Aaron Gordon — has never had the benefit of the same coach for consecutive seasons. The turmoil with the Magic’s coaching position started with Payton’s rookie season.

Evan Fournier has had it worse. He arrived in Orlando at the start of the team’s coaching turmoil. But his two previous seasons with the Denver Nuggets saw a different coach each season too — first George Karl and then Brian Shaw. Fournier has had a different coach for each of his five years in the league.

That has affected both his development and the teams he has played on.

"“As a player, you need stability,” Evan Fournier told Orlando Magic Daily. “You need to create habits. And it’s not easy when you change coaches every year. It’s definitely hard because it’s always a new system, always new plays. You have to get used to the system. Offensively, you have to learn how to get to your spots.”"

Fournier called the fact he has had a different coach each of his five years “crazy.” Indeed it does seem crazy that a player who has played for two teams in five years would have a different coach every year of his career.

There were adjustments and a learning process for the Magic for sure in having a new coach. There were adjustments for the coach and new players and a new situation. Those were all impediments to the team’s success in the end.

The team will at least have one advantage heading into next year. Those who return to the Magic will know what their coach expects from them and what to expect from him.

Next: Orlando Magic try to pinpoint where things went wrong

That should help the Magic improve on its own next season.