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The coaching hot seat got too warm in Orlando. The pressure was on Jacque Vaughn to make progress, or else. Which available coaches would make for good fits? Our experts break it down.
1. Fair or unfair: Jacque Vaughn was fired by the Magic.
Joe Atmonavage: Fair? I am not sure the way the Magic went about leaking information that Vaughn had a short lease was fair. But let’s face it, the Magic have some nice talent and really good pieces — 2-16 in their last 18 games indicates something is wrong. Vaughn lost his team and it was fair to cut ties with him.
Zachary Bennett: Fair. Sure, Vaughn may have had to deal with Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, and Nikola Vucevic missing stretches of games throughout the first few months of the season, but Orlando has won merely five games since December 19. During that time, Vaughn’s group suffered losses to some of the NBA’s worst teams, including Philadelphia, Detroit, Utah, and the Lakers.
Jacob Frankel: Fair. The talent on the Magic roster does not match their win total (15-37) by any stretch of the imagination. Effort fluctuated on a nightly basis and the only consistency was the lack of a clear offensive or defensive scheme.
2. Fair or unfair: Jacque Vaughn was fired midseason.
Atmonavage: Fair. I am not a fan of firing anyone midseason because I don’t think it really accomplishes much in the grand scheme of things, but once a coach loses a team and it becomes obvious he needs to go, there isn’t much else to do.
Bennett: Somewhat unfair. This discussion surfaced when Mike Malone was fired by the Kings, only to be replaced by one of his assistants (Ty Corbin). If Orlando goes out and gets a name a la Malone, then, sure, Rob Hennigan is within his right to make a coaching change. If this is a change just for the sake of change, then firing Vaughn becomes less justifiable.
Frankel: Fair. The Magic are already out of the playoff race and Vaughn clearly isn’t the coach for this Magic roster. So there’s no downside to parting with Vaughn as early as possible and getting a couple months ahead on the coaching search or becoming more comfortable with an in-staff replacement.
3. Which available coach would be the best fit for the Magic?
Atmonavage: James Borrego. I am leaning towards keeping Borrego as the interim coach for the rest of the year, assess where the franchise is going into the summer, then look for the best coaching fit in the offseason. No reason to pin yourself down with a guy in a lost cause of a season.
Bennett: Mike Malone. Before being fired, Malone started to turn things around in Sacramento — he appeared to have gotten his players to buy into his defensive philosophy. This includes superstar center — and known headcase — DeMarcus Cousins. With Vucevic at center, and players that may become quality two-way players in Oladipo, Payton, and Gordon, Orlando could use Malone to instill some good habits on the defensive end.
Frankel: George Karl. It might be a pipe-dream at this point in his career, but why not? Karl knows how to run an offense on a team sparse on shooting, which the Magic are. His defensive struggles are overrated and Orlando already has a fairly strong defensive roster. At this point, the Magic just need to win — the rest can be figured out later — and Karl can help with that.