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Though a rising tide ostensibly lifts all boats, the trend toward analytically-minded NBA head coaches has left Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn adrift in the wake of public opinion. And it’s too bad, too, as Vaughn and the Magic were a year ahead of the curve.
This past offseason, nine teams hired rookie head coaches to lead their on-court execution and player development. Unsurprisingly, several have struggled significantly and notably in their first year on the bench — Jason Kidd, of course, but also Mike Malone in Sacramento. Dave Joerger in Memphis has battled through injuries to his roster and a two-step forward, one-step back foray into changing the way the Grizzlies play, and Brian Shaw’s Nuggets have been down, then up, then down again.
Yet the other five first-year head honchos (Brett Brown, Jeff Hornacek, Brad Stevens, Steve Clifford and Mike Budenholzer) have gathered a fair amount of acclaim for their relative success in their brief careers, and one of the ties that binds that group is an appreciation for and application of the statistical and data revolution in which the league currently finds itself in.
Orlando, however, took to the future a year ahead of the rest. General manager Rob Hennigan, who spent eight years in the San Antonio and Oklahoma City organizations, is well-known at this point for his interest in analytics. The Magic were among the earliest adopters of the SportVU player tracking technology, and Hennigan attended the 2013 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference along with other members of the Orlando front office.