The Orlando Magic have been busy — quiet, but busy — on the coaching front.
There were a few Twitter sleuths surmising through “rumor and innuendo” that the team had a few candidates in Orlando already for interviews. But in this age of Zoom interviews, that may be a bit premature. We have not confirmed any candidates have been in the building.
The Magic are getting connected to plenty of coaches and the team is clearly working through its process.
Of course, the world around them changed completely too.
This week saw three more teams add coaching vacancies with the splitting of Stan Van Gundy (New Orleans Pelicans), Scott Brooks (Washington Wizards) and Rick Carlisle (Dallas Mavericks). That creates more competition for the now-seven coaching jobs available in the NBA. And Orlando may not get one of the candidates they really want.
It is fair to say the Magic have one of the least attractive openings right now. The team does not have any superstar players. And while they have a blank canvas to offer, a coach coming in is surely going to have to eat a few losses in his or her first season at least if not the first couple of seasons while this young team grows.
In that sense, this week’s changes do not do much for the Magic. Orlando is really the only developing team among the group looking for new coaches. While there are a few that likely would settle on a first-time assistant to foster their rosters, many are probably looking for steady and established hands to get them to the next.
The Orlando Magic’s coaching search continues as the team deals with more competition for the top coaches. We rank where the Magic’s coaching search is at today.
The Magic are going to stick through their process. And they will get an important selling point to their puzzle Tuesday when the NBA Draft Lottery takes place. That might, at the very least, show potential coaches they have a star in waiting.
The latest reporting on the Magic’s coaching search front comes from Josh Robbins of The Athletic. He reported the Magic have requested permission to interview Phoenix Suns assistant Willie Green, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Charles Lee and Brooklyn Nets assistant Ime Udoka.
The other coaches that have been connected to the Magic as being set for interviews are San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd. LA Clippers assistant Kenny Atkinson and Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham have also had some reporting connecting them to the Magic (although no interview has been reported at this point).
What should be clear too is the Magic are going to do their search and there is just as good a chance that the person the team eventually hires has not been named yet.
We will continue to do the best we can to sort through the rumors we do have as well as other popular names with our weekly coaching search power rankings. Like we did with last week’s edition, these power rankings are based on reporting, fan input and preference and my personal preference.
Last rank: 1st
There is still no concrete reporting linking Kenny Atkinson to the Orlando Magic. His LA Clippers advanced to the Western Conference Finals and so he might otherwise be unavailable to interviews for a little while longer. But he is still undoubtedly one of the top prospects the team will look at.
We made a strong argument for why Atkinson should be the guy the team hires. And it is hard to argue with that.
Atkinson would provide the team with the balance of someone who can develop a young roster and someone with the experience to take a rebuilding team to the playoffs. Atkinson would seemingly be the home run hire that can be with the team through multiple stages of the process.
But the best candidate is often the hardest one to acquire. And even the seeming home run hire can be a nightmare (just think how excited everyone was for Frank Vogel, although even that might have been proven to be more about a poor roster construction).
The Magic at least need to see if they can get an interview with Atkinson. Of all the “retread” coaches, Atkinson is by far the best one out there.
Last rank: 8th
The Orlando Magic already have plenty of connections to the Milwaukee Bucks through former general manager John Hammond (although much of the team was put together after Hammon’s departure). And the team seemed to be circling the dying carcass of the Bucks and the potential that Mike Budenholzer would get fired, freeing up all of his staff.
Rumors of the Milwaukee Bucks’ demise seem to be greatly exaggerated after the team gutted its way to a Game 7 win over the Brooklyn Nets. The Bucks play on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Darvin Ham will still be a coach the Magic will circle. And the Bucks making the conference finals should only increase his potential profile.
Ham has been on Budenholzer’s staff since 2013. That has helped him see a lot of success with both the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks. And a lot of people believe he is knocking on the door of becoming a head coach.
If the Magic value previous playing experience in their head coach, Ham might be the perfect first-time head coach to chase.
Last rank: 7th
Now that the Brooklyn Nets are out of the playoffs, expect to hear Ime Udoka’s name bouncing around a lot more. He is going to get a few interviews at least, even if he is not quite there for a head coaching job at the moment.
Udoka though has plenty of experience, coaching seven years under Gregg Popovich before bouncing to Popovich acolytes in Brett Brown and then Kenny Atkinson (staying on staff to coach under Steve Nash now too).
Udoka is among the leading candidates to land the Boston Celtics job at this point. So there are a lot of established positions that might be looking to make him a head coach. It is hard to imagine the Magic competing with a team like the Celtics for the same candidate. So the team might have to see what Boston does before acting.
While it is not clear what Ime Udoka’s responsibilities are, with Mike D’Antoni on the Nets staff for the offense, it seems like Udoka had some of the team’s defensive responsibilities. Brooklyn got significantly better defensively as the year went on.
More than anything, Udoka was a grinder as a player. And he surely brings that same sensibility to his coaching.
Last rank: 3rd
Becky Hammon continues to be one of the bigger first-time coaching names in this coaching cycle. It really feels like the glass ceiling will get broken this time around — whether it is Becky Hammon, Kara Lawson or Dawn Staley. Someone is going to hire a woman as a head coach, and while that will be historic, they will be getting someone who can do the job.
I always felt skeptical about Hammon taking the Magic job. I always felt like Becky Hammon was holding out either for Gregg Popovich to retire or for a head coaching position that was set up for her to succeed quickly. It is definitely a societal problem that women are elevated to leadership positions for the first time in situations that are set up for their failure.
That is not to say Hammon will not succeed if she took the Orlando job. While her responsibilities within the San Antonio Spurs’ ecosystem are not particularly clear, she has as much bench experience as any of the other coaches we are discussing here. She will get her opportunity.
Right now the rumor mill seems to have quieted on her. But that will surely pick up as she gets her interviews.
Last rank: Unranked
Charles Lee is not a particularly well-known coaching name among fans, but like Darvin Ham, he has been with Mike Budenholzer for a long time, joining the staff in Atlanta in 2014 after a two-year stint at his alma mater in Bucknell.
Lee had a fairly long playing career in Israel, Belgium and Germany, never making it to the NBA. He was an all-Patriot League player at Bucknell in college.
Lee was among the coaches Robbins reported the Magic have requested interviews for. Orlando is certainly not the only one interested in him as a potential coach.
Undoubtedly, Budenholzer is well thought of around the league. He has had a lot of success in building up the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks through team-first and movement offenses. Despite the Bucks’ occasional stagnation, their offensive systems are based on moving the ball and shooting threes. That is the key to success in the NBA.
If a team can tap into that by stealing from his staff, that is something the Magic will take.
Wes Unseld Jr.
Last rank: Unranked
The other report linking a coach to the Orlando Magic was the Denver Post’s report the team requested an interview with Denver Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr.
Unseld has been close to becoming a head coach for a while now, even beginning with his time with the Orlando Magic. Wes Unseld Jr. was an assistant under Jacque Vaughn from 2012-15. He joined the Nuggets shortly after that.
Unseld got a few opportunities when he was with the Magic. He was the head coach of the Magic’s summer league team in 2014. That would be the team that included Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton as rookies.
Everyone though is pegging Unseld for a homecoming to Washington rather than Orlando. Unseld’s father built his Hall-of-Fame career with the Washington Bullets, including winning the franchise’s lone title.
Last rank: Unranked
Jason Kidd is probably the most divisive name on the Orlando Magic’s reported coaching list. Even mentioning that he got an interview will send some fans into hysterics. There is not a coach that drives people crazy.
On one hand, he is a Hall-of-Fame player who clearly has the respect of many players. Damian Lillard after all wanted the fellow Oakland native to be his coach in Portland before Kidd declined the interview offer.
On the other hand, his coaching stints in both Brooklyn and Milwaukee ended in turmoil. He reportedly tried to make power moves to become the coach and general manager. And then his time with the Bucks ended in further turmoil with the team struggling to pick things up defensively and failing to meet expectations after a strong first season.
It is hard to say whether Kidd is the right coach to lead a rebuilding outfit.
Could Jason Kidd have learned some humility and better coaching methods working under Frank Vogel the last two years? Sure. That could absolutely be the case. And maybe his relationship with John Hammond is better than the media reports suggest.
But it does not feel like that is the risk the Magic should take with this coaching hire.
Last rank: Unranked
It was a little bit surprising to see Josh Robbins link Willie Green back to the Orlando Magic in his report for The Athletic. That name likely draws shudders from Magic fans for Green’s overused 2015 season. It was not Green’s fault the Magic leaned on him for veteran leadership and played him way too much during that disorganized season.
So do not throw Green’s name out with the bathwater here. Green has actually been gaining notoriety in coaching circles. He almost immediately joined the Golden State Warriors’ staff after retiring and was with Steve Kerr for three seasons through 2019. Then he joined Monty Williams in Phoenix in 2019.
Green has experienced a lot of success as a basketball coach, winning championships with the Warriors and then helping the Suns develop into the title contender they are now.
Green may not have the total experience as other assistant coaches. But he was always a respected veteran in the locker room. And he will be a head coach very soon. Perhaps even with the Magic. Do not sleep on this candidacy.
Last rank: Unranked
If the Orlando Magic are looking for experience in helping rebuild a team, they at least have to make a call to Scott Brooks, right?
Brooks helped guide the Oklahoma City Thunder with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook from the beginnings of their career to the NBA Finals. That is exactly what the Magic are looking for (except gathering all that talent might be a difficult thing). Brooks knows how to handle and grow young teams.
The reason he is not building much buzz is because his time with the Washington Wizards was such a mixed bag. The Wizards dealt with a ton of injuries to key players. But they got out of the first round only in his first season and they never broke through again.
Washington never assembled a clear identity through it all. And so Brooks’ second coaching experience was not a copy of his first. Plenty could think he was destined for success in Oklahoma City because of the talent and not because of his skill. Indeed, many people thought Brooks’ coaching held that team back in the end.
So he is worth a call, but probably not worth keeping as a coaching candidate.
Last rank: 4th
Chauncey Billups continues to be a really popular name among fans and teams are certainly calling for him too at this point. Billups’ playing career is unassailable at this point. But he is still a relatively new coach.
Still, that playing career and the smarts he showed then are getting him a lot of buzz in coaching circles. Attaching himself to a winning team like the LA Clippers certainly helps too.
Billups seems to be angling for some of the bigger jobs. His lack of coaching experience probably does not make him a viable candidate for a young roster that has a lot to learn. His lack of experience may not hurt him going with veteran players who know how to win already or need just that little bit of expertise to get over the top.
Magic fans are clamoring for someone like Billups probably more than the two parties are interested in each other.
That will do it for this week’s power rankings. We will be back next week (provided no one is hired) with another round of rankings. Let us know what you think and who you think should be the coach in the comments below or on Twitter @omagicdaily, fan sentiment goes into our power rankings so we are interested in hearing your thoughts!