Jamahl Mosley will be the measure of Orlando Magic’s success

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley is beginning his NBA head coaching career. His development and system will be the measure for the team's success. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley is beginning his NBA head coaching career. His development and system will be the measure for the team's success. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic will embark on a new season beginning tonight. And everything feels like it has changed.

The moves the team made at the trade deadline reset the franchise and this season seems like when those changes will finally cement themselves. This is truly a new era.

The team still has some familiar faces, but everything is new. Nobody knows when Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz will make their returns or just what they might look like as they get back into playing shape. Nobody knows what second-year players Cole Anthony, Chuma Okeke and R.J. Hampton will look like after solid but inconsistent rookie years.

And, of course, nobody knows exactly what the team will get from Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner in their rookie years. A lot of the team’s future will get mapped out this year as the team begins the long climb back to the top of the NBA mountain.

The biggest unknown of all though remains the man leading the charge. Probably the most consequential new acquisition for the team especially at this beginning stage of the rebuild. The Magic know firsthand what hiring the wrong coach can do to a rebuild.

Jamahl Mosley is not going to make this season about himself. He has done a good job through training camp establishing the things he wants to focus on and tempering expectations for a young team that needs a lot of growth. Everyone seems bought into what he is selling.

More than anyone else, Mosley will set the tone for the team. He has the most difficult job on the team. He has to manage everyone’s frustrations as they go through these early stages of rebuilding while still keeping their eyes on the bigger goal and what really matters.

Jamahl Mosley has the most difficult job for the Orlando Magic. In this first year of rebuilding, his direction will have major consequences for the team.

He has to maintain optimism while still making winning matters. He has to see a far-off vision for this team that will only come out in hints throughout the course of this season.

This is a difficult balance. It takes optimism and encouragement in the face of difficult odds and prospects but the foresight to see something that may not quite be there yet.

As the Magic begin to rebuild, Mosley will be setting the tone. This team will truly become his.

It is a lot of work. But Mosley has really been about the grind.

"“You don’t just get to say we’re going to play this way and you see that from day one,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said at media day. “Especially with a young team, that has to be earned and practiced and ingrained in our team this is how we do it. There is a lot of organizing and strategizing that goes into those plans. He’s been really good about how he is messaging through his staff to the players and the rest of the organization his expectations.”"

Mosley is proving himself to be a different kind of coach.

It was something Weltman saw pretty quickly when he arrived in Orlando. His ability to connect to players was something that helped him build a 14-year career as an assistant coach with a variety of teams at various stages of development.

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Weltman said Mosley has spent a lot of his time in the preseason talking about expectations and what it takes to win.

He is someone who wants to jump in on drills to show physically what he wants his team to do, even going up against his own players in drills. He said he wants to do this as long as he is physically capable of doing so. Part of him misses the hands-on work that comes from being an assistant coach.

That has helped solidify the connection with his team.

"“His ability to connect with players, which is very underrated at this level,” Mo Bamba said of his early impressions of Mosley at media day. “His ability to connect with players and understand who you are and what you want is great. And just how hands-on he is. He is very much on the court, playing defense, trying to go after you and trying to get you better. He takes pride in everyone’s process of getting better.”"

Bamba has probably experienced that more than anyone else. More than any other player, he needed a fresh start for his career. That came both in the form of a healthy offseason to rebuild his conditioning and improve his skills and in the form of a new pair of eyes to evaluate and get the most out of him.

Bamba’s impressive preseason comes from all these factors. But Jamahl Mosley’s willingness to experiment with Mo Bamba playing alongside fellow center Wendell Carter was a sign that he intends to play Bamba serious minutes. He was looking for a way to get him on the floor.

Mosley seems like someone who is going to reward work with playing time. That is central to the culture Mosley is trying to build.

He installed the bell in the Magic’s practice facility to emphasize the kind of winning plays and foundation he wants to build. When wins may be in short supply for a growing team, he is trying to find little victories that will one day build into bigger ones.

All anyone has talked about to this point is how Mosley has changed the energy within the team. It is a different vibe for sure. And everyone is bought in.

"“Mos, he’s young,” Cole Anthony said at media day. “He’s a younger coach. He’s new to this. All of us young guys are new to the league. I think we can relate. I think we have a chance to be really good. We all have a similar vision. We’ve all done a lot of talking. We haven’t had much time to do much else besides that or being in the gym working. If we all stick to the game plan, I think we’re going to be successful.”"

What that success is will be what Mosley has to define most this season. There has to be some measurable benchmark to show the team is on the right path.

There has been precious little talk into the team’s expectations. A few players mentioned the playoffs as a goal. But neither Mosley nor Weltman will say their goal is anything more than to improve each day.

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That is probably a warning that all those external expectations that have the Magic finishing last in the Eastern Conference are probably fair outcomes for the season.

Success then is going to be measured much differently. And Mosley will have to find a way to keep players engaged and working toward a goal, even if it is not winning or losing. Improvement is a funny thing to measure. But it sounds like fans and management will be able to pick out success when they see it as they lay the foundations.

And that is probably where everything starts. That foundation of playing aggressive, physical defense along with a selfless style of offense. So much of that is still yet to be figured out.

But all of it will sprout from Mosley and the roots he has planted in the last week during training camp. He has so far connected enough that players are bought in and ready to go.

"“I think the reason everyone on the team is ready to go to war with coach Mosley is because he brings that energy every single day,” R.J. Hampton said during media day. “He wants us to be a great team. He’s exciting. He’s pumped up. He’s encouraging us. Who wouldn’t want to play for a man like that? Just the whole coaching staff, the energy and excitement they have brought to star tht eseason is something I personally haven’t been around.”"

Of everything else that comes out of this season, the Magic probably need to have their faith in Mosley confirmed more than anything else. His development and how he gets his players to play and grow this year will be key to the team’s success.

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