There are few indications the Orlando Magic are looking to make a coaching change. But a recent report suggests the team has a plan if they do.
Whenever a team is in the running for the worst record in the league, it is inevitable to begin thinking about changing everything. Coach, GM, players. The whole future feels up in the air in every way.
The Orlando Magic already changed their front office, hiring Jeff Weltman as president of basketball operations last summer. That was an important change following five years of directionless building under Rob Hennigan. The team was painted into a corner.
The next phase almost certainly will come with other changes to the roster. The Magic have had many of the same players for several years and it is clear this group has gone as far as it can go together.
Jeff Weltman hinted as much when he decided to trade Elfrid Payton, saying at his press conference announcing the trade that the team could not see itself investing money in the same core that was clearly not working. The Magic needed to move on.
It is that last component that has everyone wondering where the Magic will go this summer.
Is coach Frank Vogel on the hot seat? And if he were, where would the Magic go?
Mitch Lawrence of The Sporting News reports the Magic may have an answer to that second question. He reports in a wide-ranging column on coaching rumors that the team could target Jerry Stackhouse if they make a coaching change.
"Orlando could be making a coaching change, with former NBA player Jerry Stackhouse seen as the Magic’s No. 1 choice to replace Frank Vogel. After a 20-year career in which he was twice an All-Star, Stackhouse has coached Toronto’s G-League team and has close ties to Jeff Weltman, now running the Magic as president of basketball operations after being with the Raptors and seeing Stackhouse up close when he was an assistant coach."
Stackhouse currently coaches Raptors 905, the Toronto Raptors’ G-League affiliate. In his first year as head coach last year, he was named Coach of the Year and won the G-League championship. This after having his first year as an assistant coach as an integral part of the Raptors’ Eastern Conference Finals run.
Stackhouse is certainly one of the hottest names in coaching circles around the league. And he has ambitions to coach in the NBA. That will happen sooner than later.
Weltman was part of the staff that hired him into the Raptors’ organization. So that relationship certainly already exists. Stackhouse has done a great job developing players at Raptors 905, helping grow some of the same players the Raptors used off the bench to defeat the Magic last week.
Of course, the first step is what to do with Vogel.
Vogel has gone 49-96 in two seasons with the Magic. That is hardly a sterling record. The team is on track for its second straight sub-30-win season with Vogel as the head coach. It should give any team concern and force them to analyze their coaching situation.
When Weltman said he was evaluating everything on the roster, the coach had to be included in that.
But by all indications, Weltman and his staff like Vogel and have approved of the job he has done in most instances. The record is not strong, but this organization knows how dangerous it is to shuffle through coaches so quickly. Some stability at coach is necessary for the kind of growth they need to see in this young team.
Then again, the way the team turned south this year is very concerning. And, at least, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders is suggesting he has heard the Magic are ready for a change or a mutual parting as the team has struggled:
The Magic will make a decision after the season ends. To everyone’s credit, they have kept quiet. And Vogel has done a good job continuing to push his team to establish a culture and winning mentality that will help whoever is coach next year.
Player development is a big part of what the Magic are trying to do as an organization. And changing coaches, even for a strong, up-and-coming development coach like Stackhouse, could hamper that.
Weltman spoke about his player development ambitions for the Magic with Dave Zarum of SportsNet in Canada:
"“Yeah, we’ve added significant personnel to the player-development program. It’s something we’ll embed into our personality as a team as we go forward. Some of it is numbers, some of it is talent-driven. We have to understand that we’re all doing this without any turf because there’s a lot of overlap.“It takes time for people to become comfortable with one another, and it takes the right personalities. It’s important that we establish with our players from the moment they step foot in our facilities that “this is who we are.” We work collaboratively, we work as a group, and my job is to make the guy next to me better. This is our DNA.”"
Weltman is still remaking his team. He did not hire Vogel and so it becomes natural to think he might bring in his own guy to fit that vision. This is not the first time, nor the last, that rumors about Vogel’s future will pop up this year.
Where there is smoke, there is usually at least something burning.
Whether Orlando will go through with changing coaches is another mystery. One the team likely will not talk about or do until the season ends in April.
There have been no indications other than this report that the Magic are anything but happy with Vogel and see him as a partner in the team’s growth. Indeed, Vogel has talked about how several young players have grown this year. It is easy to see that in the way Mario Hezonja emerged this year after languishing on the bench last year.
But like everything else with this team, it is all up in the air and uncertain. Weltman and his staff still have their evaluations to make as they map a course forward for this team.