Orlando Magic Coaching Search: The Case for Terry Stotts

Terry Stotts should land on his feet quickly after leaving the Portland Trail Blazers. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Terry Stotts should land on his feet quickly after leaving the Portland Trail Blazers. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports /

The draft order has been set, and the Orlando Magic are still without a head coach. The team picking number five could have a big effect on that. If they were able to secure the top overall pick in the draft, that could have been a big selling point to potential candidates.

Even without a top-three pick, Orlando does own two in the top 10. That also leaves a real possibility they could trade up.

Potential head coaching candidate Terry Stotts has a lot of experience when it comes to leading a young franchise with a high draft pick. The Magic have had a long-standing interest in him, and if the reports that the team is looking for an experienced coach are true, Stotts is someone who would easily fill that role.

The Orlando Magic reportedly are seeking a coach with some experience. Terry Stotts’ offensive work with the Portland Trail Blazers could be what pushes the team forward.

When the Portland Trail Blazers hired Stotts in 2012, they selected Damian Lillard with the sixth overall pick just months earlier. That roster already included Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Will Barton.

Although Portland went 28-38 in 2011, expectations for the team were high. Former head coach Nate McMillan led them to a 48-34 record in 2010 and a 50-23 record in 2009.

Lillard’s talent was immediately apparent and he averaged 19 points per game his rookie season.

Stotts crafted a strong offensive team that fit the budding personality of their young star, shifting to him as the team grew and developed and he emerged.

Even with his emergence as a young star, they went 33-49 in 2012. It would not take long for Stotts’ system to take hold. The team immediately improved, going 54-28 the next year.

They would not miss the playoffs from that point and their eight-year streak is the longest active one in the NBA currently.

Given the parallels, Stotts would potentially relish in the idea of being able to a build a franchise from the ground up like he did all those years ago.

With almost no expectations, he would be given the creative liberty to take the team in any direction he pleased. There would be no pressure to perform in his first year which is a complete juxtaposition to his last few years in Portland which could entice him to take the Orlando job.

The end of his time with the Trail Blazers was defined by unrealistic expectations and overly dramatic positional moves.

General manager Neil Olshey constantly rotated the supporting cast around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but never found the right group. The team constantly invested in the wrong player or suffered unfortunate injuries (Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic’s recent injuries completely gutted the team’s post depth).

While the trade to acquire Norman Powell appeared franchise altering from the outside, it did little to help the team defensively. They were still one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

When the majority of a team’s minutes are played by players such as Carmelo Anthony, Enes Kanter, Derrick Jones Jr. and C.J. McCollum, you quite simply cannot build a coherent defensive scheme.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

On an individual basis, I think they can contribute on a team successfully but together they could not produce a net gain. Terry Stotts is far from the defensive minded juggernaut like Tom Thibodeau but should not be the primary reason for their defensive struggles.

He was able to build a few strong defenses when the Blazers were able to get out of the first round — including the 16th-best defense in 2019 as the team reached the Western Conference Finals.

From a coaching philosophy perspective, his teams play a fast style of basketball.

Since 2013, Portland was in the top 15 of pace in five of those eight years. In his entire tenure, they were never worse than 15th in offensive rating. His average offensive team rating of 111.1 points per 100 possessions in Portland is a number Orlando has not seen since 2009 when Dwight Howard lead Magic all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. And that is even with offenses scoring more efficiently than ever before.

Stotts represents something of vital importance. His veteran presence is a stark difference from a potential new NBA coach like Penny Hardaway who will be eager to see success early in his tenure.

Markelle Fultz, R.J. Hampton, Wendell Carter and Mohamed Bomba’s careers will likely depend on who leads them next as they look to carve out long careers for themselves.

Fultz in particular would benefit from Stotts. Orlando signed him to a three-year, $50-million contract with the belief he could perform to his high pick expectations. They want Fultz still to be the team’s starting point guard for the long-term.

With his most recent injury, I would imagine having a coach like Stotts would be more comfortable for him. He would not pressure him into playing under certain expectations while he recovers.

Structurally, the Orlando roster supports his offensive scheme even without a dynamic scorer like Lillard. Portland always played quick and athletic starting lineups. The Magic have the foundational players to emulate that successfully.

Lineups of Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton and Jonathan Isaac could flourish in that system as long as they play alongside two reliable shooters.

That roster might be not be available to the Magic in 2021 but they have a long way to go before they can be a threat to anyone in the NBA. Long-term success is built slowly and through consistent ideology.

Building a franchise from the ground up can be exhausting work. Young stars can be very demanding as evidenced by Zion Williamson and Luka Doncic in the past couple of weeks.

The Magic are not projected to take on a player like that in this year’s draft so it is hard to imagine it would be a deterrent to any potential head coaching candidate.

Next. 5 best NBA Draft fits for Orlando Magic. dark

Wherever the Magic are in their coaching search, Stotts should be near the top of their list when it comes to potential hires. His knowledge on building a team around a young star would prove invaluable for a franchise longing to become relevant again.