Orlando Magic’s focus on development coaches puts team on right path

The time has come. The Orlando Magic are now looking to interview for a new head coach to lead the team in the 2022 season.

A bold move considering the minor regular season success the team has had after the Dwight Howard era. The team came a long way despite multiple draft failures after Howard left the franchise high and dry. And it took a long time to even get back to the playoffs again.

A lot of that success has to go to Steve Clifford, who has always been known to get the most out of the players he coaches. But a new direction is clearly on the minds of the organization.

At the end of the day, the Magic felt like they were not closer to winning a title and made a dramatic shift at the trade deadline to try to raise their ceiling and prepare for a high pick in the upcoming NBA Draft Lottery.

The Orlando Magic are building from scratch and that starts with finding a new coach. Already a shortlist and a type is emerging as their search begins.

The Magic are looking to build the team from scratch, and their first move was to get rid of Steve Clifford, who had taken the Magic to back-to-back Playoff appearances despite not having a high-level All-Star caliber player. Clifford was simply not willing to sit through another rebuild.

But the Magic are likely looking for someone who will accomplish something similar to what Clifford accomplished, albeit with a younger roster.

Steve Clifford was able to develop Nikola Vucevic into an All-Star level player, something even former coach and 2020 NBA Championship head coach Frank Vogel could not pull off during his time in Orlando.

But more importantly, Clifford built a belief throughout the franchise that if he did have the necessary talent to work with, he could have taken the Magic back to the mountain top of the NBA. Even at the end of the season after a brutal 21-51 campaign, Orlando believed that if the team were healthy it would have competed for homecourt advantage in this year’s playoffs.

Now the franchise is looking to get better sooner than later, and they are looking to greener pastures by parting ways with Clifford. It will cause for a major reconstruction, something that Magic fans know all too well.

This time is different.

The Magic may have a chance to interview some of the hottest head coaching candidates in Becky Hammon, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups, David Vanterpool or Sam Cassell.

Hammon has been expected to become the first woman head coach in the history of the NBA, and what would be a better place for her to land than in Orlando, Florida. She reportedly will have interviews with both the Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic. One group in Boston has posted billboards outside the Boston Celtics’ practice facility urging them to hire one of Becky Hammon or Kara Lawson, currently the head coach at Duke.

You can make a case Becky Hammon would be the best fit since she has mentored under arguably the best head coach in the NBA in Gregg Popovich. She was the first full-time woman assistant coach in the history of the league and became the first woman to serve as acting head coach after Popovich was ejected from a game in December.

Players in San Antonio love this woman, and she is highly respected in coaching circles around the NBA.

So much so the Magic are in hot pursuit of her services. Hammon has the qualities of a seasoned assistant coach with seven years in San Antonio and seems more than ready to take on the full responsibility of a head coach in today’s NBA.

The question in Orlando will always be, can the franchise provide enough talent for a coach of her caliber to take this team to heights unseen? In recent years the answer has been a firm, no.

Hammon would have a rough first couple of years with the roster that is currently assembled, but which NBA coach would not? So much of the Magic’s future depends on what happens during next week’s NBA Draft Lottery.

At some point the franchise has to take accountability for the lack of talent in the draft picks that they have accumulated and stop blaming the head coach for all of its problems with the team.

The Magic are hoping to hire a coach with a good development acumen to guide and teach their young players. Hammon’s experience with the ultimate teacher in Popovich would certainly seem to fit that bill.

Not only would this be a historical hire for the Magic, but they would also probably be getting the best coaching option available if the transaction went through. Which is something that the Magic can hang their hats on even if they aren’t bringing in top free agents to Central Florida.

But there are plenty of other coaches on the market that would too — such as former Portland Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool or former Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. The Magic are still in the beginning stages of their search. But a type has emerged for sure.

You have to crawl before you walk, but getting a coach like Becky Hammon is a step in the right direction and will bring life to a franchise that is rebuilding.