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NBA PM: Magic Begin Search for New Head Coach

With Jacque Vaughn gone, Orlando is looking for a new coach. Here’s the latest on their search.

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Magic Begin Search for New Head Coach

The Orlando Magic officially fired head coach Jacque Vaughn today, after the team had lost 10 straight games and 16 of their last 18 contests. During a press conference announcing the decision, Magic general manager Rob Hennigan made it clear that the team hadn’t been competing at an acceptable level lately and that they’re hoping this change can make them more consistent moving forward.

James Borrego is the assistant who has been tapped as the Magic’s interim head coach, but it’s possible that Orlando will try to bring in a full-time head coach midseason. The All-Star break, which is next weekend and longer this year, would seemingly be the perfect time to make such a change.

It’s sometimes tough to bring in a head coach midseason since it’s difficult to build a staff (as most assistants are already hired) and some coaches prefer to take over in the summer when they can put the team through training camp and implement their system from day one. However, some league sources said that the Magic are viewed as an attractive situation given their youth and talent, and that some coaches may want to land there now so they can see what they have on the roster before the offseason.

The Magic want an experienced, proven head coach who will help them win right away and immediately have the respect of the players, according to sources.

Sources confirm that Scott Skiles, Mark Jackson and Mike Malone are three coaches who are on the Magic’s radar. Hennigan hasn’t started reaching out to coaches or their representatives yet, but they are expected to begin that process today.

Skiles may be the frontrunner, which wouldn’t be a surprise since he has been linked to the job for awhile. He and Magic assistant general manager Matt Lloyd worked together on the Chicago Bulls, and Lloyd has quite a bit of influence in Orlando. Some of Skiles’ assistant coaches that worked with him during his latest stint with the Milwaukee Bucks have been coaching the Magic’s D-League affiliate in Erie this season. Skiles has 13 years of coaching experience and has gone 443-433 in the regular season and 18-24 in the postseason.

Jackson is expected to receive consideration as well. He most recently coached the Golden State Warriors, but was let go after three seasons. During his final two seasons, he led the Warriors to 47 and 51 wins as well as consecutive playoff berths. He was successful and had strong relationships with his players, but he butted heads with the management. Jackson is 121-109 in the regular season and 9-10 in the playoffs.

Malone was fired this season by the Sacramento Kings, but he’s a respected coach who had his team playing above league-wide expectations when he was let go. He has the least experience of the three candidates, with just 106 games under his belt (in which he went 39-67), but he is a possibility.

One name to watch is George Karl. Sources didn’t mention him as a target for the Magic initially, but I’m told that Karl would have interest in coaching Orlando and possibly joining the team midseason. In 2005, he took over the Denver Nuggets midseason and they went 32-8 after he got the job (which is the best record for a coach who has taken over a job midseason).

Karl had previously said he’d prefer a job out West, but sources say he would be interested in the Magic since they’re an attractive team with their youth and talent. Karl is also extremely experienced, with 25 years of head coaching experience and an NBA Finals appearance on his resume. He is 1131-756 in the regular season and 80-105 in the postseason.

When asked about the coaching search today, Hennigan refused to provide details.

“We’re going to take it day by day; James Borrego is our coach,” Hennigan said. “We’re supporting JB. Our players are supporting JB… I’m not going to get into specifics about anything relative to a coaching situation other than the fact that JB is our coach.”

The Magic are currently 15-37, which is the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference. One reason why the Magic may want to hire a coach this season is because the East remains wide open at the bottom and they are only seven and a half games back from the eighth seed.

They entered this season hoping to make the playoffs since their young players had some experience under their belt and veterans like Channing Frye, Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour were signed over the summer as well. Under Vaughn, the team failed to live up to these expectations and many felt that he was in over his head.

“I would like to thank Mr. DeVos and family for the opportunity of representing the Orlando Magic as head coach,” Vaughn said in a statement. “I am a stronger and wiser man and coach because of the opportunity. I look forward to seeing this group continue to grow. God bless, good luck.”

Jackson Continues to Work With ‘Melo

This season has been a huge disappointment for the New York Knicks, as they currently sit at 10-39 (the second-worst record in the NBA). Still, Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony are hoping they can turn things around rather quickly, since the team will now have a top pick in this year’s draft as well as plenty of money to lure players in free agency.

During the team’s recent trip to London, Jackson and Anthony met over dinner to discuss the state of the team as well as how ‘Melo could play well into his 30s and get better over time like Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan have done.

Anthony was asked about their dinner and he said it was a very positive experience.

“We did have a conversation,’’ Anthony said, according to the New York Post. “I thought we had a great conversation. As far as the specifics, I don’t go there. There were some things said on his behalf I really took heed to. It gave me some more confidence as a player to be able to look forward to what we’re trying to create here.

“From that standpoint, it was a great conversation. As far as the player I can become, I know I have some ways to go to become that player. We’re working towards that with Phil. It takes a collective effort.’’

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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