Relationship between Jeff Weltman and Alex Martins will be key to Orlando Magic’s success

May 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic chief executive officer Alex Martins talks with media after they introduce Frank Vogel as their new head coach at Amway Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
May 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic chief executive officer Alex Martins talks with media after they introduce Frank Vogel as their new head coach at Amway Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

As Alex Martins introduced president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, they talked about their already strong relationship. Maintaining it will be key.

Jeff Weltman told the media at his introductory press conference he had no desire or intention to leave the Toronto Raptors. He was not actively looking for an improved title, more power or anything of the like. He had carved out a successful professional life assisting his friend Masai Ujuiri as his general manager and a good life in Toronto.

When the Orlando Magic called, there was that bit of skepticism.

His preference was to stay. But he listened and did his research. He knew the Magic had a good reputation.

Something about the Magic and their situation attracted Weltman. Becoming the team’s president of basketball operations — or whatever title they wanted to give him — was something he could not pass up.

"“The Orlando Magic opportunity to me is one of the elite situations in the NBA,” Weltman told Orlando Magic Daily at his introductory press conference. “So much here to win with. A history of winning and a history of winning with the present owners. Ask any executive and he will tell you the same thing, the Wooden Pyramid of Success the first block is ownership. The DeVos family is known leaguewide as a great ownership group. They care about the team, they care about the community. I know I am in good hands with them.”"

But it was not Rich DeVos or any member of the DeVos family who would do the initial screening. Dan DeVos is not his day-to-day contact.

The first interview, the man who did all the legwork and served as the point person for the team’s executive search firm to identify Weltman was with Alex Martins. And Martins will be his primary contact with ownership.

The team’s CEO has been in hot water in recent years. There is a perception that Martins meddled in the team’s basketball operations, forcing the hiring of Scott Skiles and the “win-now” mentality that led to a disastrous series of moves.

Whether that is true or not, is unknown. People who work with Martins have all said he is hands off with basketball operations and allows executives to do their job. But undoubtedly the expectation to win sooner than later — no matter where it came from — changed the dynamics of the team.

Despite fan frustration with Martins and the team’s performance the last few years, Martins’ job is very safe. He has his hands in other projects for the team that will boost the team’s business opportunities outside of basketball.

But, ultimately, he knows the team goes as its basketball product goes. And the approach Martins took to hire Weltman showed a recommitment to improving that product and hiring someone who would minimize the risk of failure through experience.

"“One of our primary goals coming into this process was to look for experience,” Martins told Orlando Magic Daily at Weltman’s introductory press conference. “To minimize our risk through experience. It was very evident as we went through the process that Jeff was everything about what we were looking for as a basketball executive and who he is as a person. Fit is an incredibly important part of making these decisions. As much as Jeff said this had to work for him, this absolutely had to work for me. Because if we can’t be open and honest and have a dialogue that is completely centered on getting better and winning, then this is not going to work. And that means everything else is not going to work.”"

In addition to hiring Weltman, Martins committed to reinvesting in the basketball operations department in a way the team had not before. The hiring of a president of basketball operations already signaled a significant financial investment. The team then went out and hired John Hammond as the team’s general manager and then former Sacramento Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro as an assistant general manager.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

With former interim general manager Matt Lloyd still on staff, the team all of a sudden has a super experienced front office group helping inform Weltman’s decisions.

But ultimately, it is that second part that matters more. The relationship between owner and basketball operations executive is still a vital one to an organization’s success. As with any “boss” and “employee” there has to be a level of trust. When that trust is lost, the results can be disastrous.

To be certain, that trust was lost with Rob Hennigan as the team struggled to build off the 19-13 start in the 2016 season. It led to the dramatic changes to the roster and, ultimately, the failure of the 2017 season.

Martins probably learned some lessons after hiring his first basketball operations leader. It would appear he applied those lessons in making this hire of Weltman.

He knows as much as anyone, the trust they build working together will ultimately lead to the team’s success or failure this season. It was important to establish that trust early.

"“We made, in my opinion, an instantaneous connection within the first five minutes of that meeting,” Martins told Orlando Magic Daily during the team’s introductory press conference. “It just flowed from there. After those first five minutes, I’ve always felt to this moment that we’ve known each other forever and that we worked with each other forever. We are like minded. We care about the same things. We have the same leadership principles. And we want to win. We ant to have the right people around us.”"

Martins said what struck him about Weltman in doing research on him and talking to general managers around the league, league office personnel and agents, is that no one had a bad thing to say about Weltman. It spoke to the way he carries himself and does business.

It seemed like a perfect fit.

That instant connection bodes well for the franchise’s success moving forward. The two clicked. Martins said they disagreed already on some things, but that only grew their relationship rather than eroded this new trust between the two.

Results matter at the end of the day. That will be the foundation for the relationship moving forward. But there is plenty of optimism things are off on the right foot.

"“I honestly believe this is going to work for a long time,” Martins told Orlando Magic Daily. “That doesn’t mean we are always going to agree on everything. That kind of relationship is hard to find between two colleagues. Like Jeff says, titles are nice, but it’s about getting the job done. I don’t see him as him reporting to me or him reporting to someone else. We hit it off right away. I think we both knew instantaneously this was something we wanted to enter into.”"

Perhaps now, Martins has found someone with the same mentality and approach. The same collaborative approach he wanted from the beginning. Something that will bring the team success.

It is easy to be in the honeymoon phase right now. There is no reason for strife between ownership and executive. Weltman is just getting started.

Next: Orlando Magic are 0-0 and full of possibility, hope

How these two executives relate to each other will be key to the Magic’s future success.