Jamahl Mosley went on a world tour this offseason.
If anybody thinks the offseason is a quiet time in the office for a coach, they are typically wrong. Especially with such a young team, there is constant activity and constant examination.
Then again, that is just the kind of person and coach Mosley is.
When the Orlando Magic hired the longtime assistant coach in 2022, Mosley’s reputation was as someone who was great at building relationships. That relationship with his players was one of his biggest selling points, especially with the team entering the beginning phases of a rebuild.
Even now with his process and his way of doing things pretty well established, Mosley is doing all he can to meet players where they are, as he likes to put it.
Last year was a major step forward. The team’s goal was to “level up” and Mosley certainly leveled up his game in his second year as head coach. The Magic’s record and how they stuck with and believed in him through the 5-20 start to finish the season in the postseason chase is proof of that.
What should the Magic expect in his third year then?
The Orlando Magic expect everyone to improve this year as their goals start to change and focus more on results. That includes their coach who has to show he is able to grow with his team into the postseason.
Individual players will certainly get better. The expectations are certainly raised. And the question then becomes: How does Mosley evolve with those expectations? How does he grow with his team and handle the winning pressure they will begin to feel?
Mosley charged his team with “leveling up” last season. That was the team’s rallying cry. It was a solid coachism for a young team playing with few external expectations. The Magic did not want the pressure of making the postseason to define success. But they still gave fans something to look for — they would know it when they saw it.
It still feels like an apt rallying cry even if wins are becoming more important and more of a measure of who this team is.
And as much as any of his players, Mosley needs to level up his game too.
"“He’s like anyone,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said at media day. “He’s like myself, any player or any coach, it takes time to grow into how you are going to do this and what tools you are going to use to be successful. I feel like coach has shown tremendous growth in the way he wants to lead and the way he wants to relate to his staff and manage our team.”"
What Mosley has been very good at is keeping the big picture in mind. As the coach of a developing team, he was often coaching a team in an undefined future rather than the present.
Fans questioned a lot of his rotation decisions at times and his decisions on when he stuck with lineups and groups for too long or pulled others. But it always seemed like he was eyeing a bigger picture. He was purposefully keeping players together or in roles that would serve the team in its final form.
Even if that final form was not yet clear.
Some of those decisions might have been as simple as putting the ball in Paolo Banchero or Franz Wagner’s hands late in games to let them make those mistakes when the stats might suggest Markelle Fultz was a better option.
This was a team that needed to learn and make those missteps now so they are not making them when the team is ready to compete.
That time is almost certainly near if it has not arrived already. The Magic are going to get judged on wins and so Mosley’s decisions will come under more scrutiny on a daily basis rather than taken as part of a whole.
That is probably unfair because this team still has to grow and develop. The big picture still matters more than the day-to-day. Rather, the details matter more than the results because the details create the results.
Even with all the eager talk of making the postseason or being a top-10 defense from the Magic through the early part of training camp, Mosley has responded by embracing that talk but also reminding them that it comes through the work. He is keeping the big picture in mind.
That does not mean Mosley has not put in his work this offseason. It was not just continuing to build the relationships with his players, it is also in his work with Team USA.
"“It was such a humbling experience to be around such great coaches and great players,” Mosley said at media day. “Just watching how they work every day, the level of humility they walked into coaches’ meetings with. Being able to be around that group that just poured into those players and poured into each other, being willing to share information about the game, about the experiences, being vulnerable enough to communicate those things but also competitive enough to know that you will battle throughout the year.”"
Jamahl Mosley of course probably learned a lot from Steve Kerr, Erik Spoelstra, Tyronn Lue and even Gonzaga coach Mark Few during his work with Team USA. His inclusion with the Team USA program along with Paolo Banchero’s presence felt like something of an endorsement of what the Magic are building.
But there is clearly more work to do. Mosley has not had to construct a rotation for a must-win game or make playoff adjustments. There was no pressure to perform in some regards.
Now he is going to have to integrate the improvement from young players into the whole. He is going to have to integrate that and foster that growth to achieve the team’s goals. Orlando’s goals are going to turn from long-term growth to short-term results very quickly.
Development is one thing everybody should believe Mosley can foster. This is a team that trusts him and deeply believes in what he is teaching. How else do you explain the team sticking together and keeping the faith after a 5-20 start? How else do you account for the confidence this team has that it will continue growing and building?
All of that is a credit to Mosley and what he has developed these past two years. This team believes because Mosley believes first and foremost. And they can all see his vision.
Now it is up to Mosley to execute it.