Orlando Magic Blog

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Wait Begins For New Coach And New Player!

May 27, 2007
Forget Vince, Magic may chase Rashard By KEN HORNACK SOUNDING OFF
Wherever it was that Otis Smith spent Tuesday night, the general manager of the Orlando Magic must have sported a grin that stretched halfway to, shall we say, Seattle.
For starters, his boast of a year ago that the Magic would stop being annual participants in the NBA Draft lottery proved to be correct, even if a 40-42 record and being the last of the eight Eastern Conference seeds wouldn't suggest the franchise is on the rise.
At least he didn't have to sit in a studio in Secaucus, N.J., while ESPN's insufferable Mark Jones tried to make small talk by prefacing a question to Larry Bird with an Oprah-esque command of "Let's chat."
And Smith was not standing in the line of fire of a vintage Tommy Heinsohn laser-like staredown after the Boston Celtics learned they'd be choosing fifth despite tanking games left and right in March and April.
But the best part, from a Magic point of view, was seeing the SuperSonics unexpectedly leap up to second in the draft order behind Portland.
HELLO, RASHARD
Provided the Trail Blazers don't pull a LaRue Martin or Sam Bowie this time around and wisely select Ohio State center Greg Oden, two predictions can be made with a fair degree of certainty:
· The Sonics will take Texas forward Kevin Durant.
· Cue Magic public-address announcer Paul Porter: "At one forward, 6-10, from Alief Elsik High School, Rashard Lewwwwwwwwwis."
You'd better believe the Sonics, assuming they're still calling Seattle home next season, aren't bringing in Durant just to have him accumulate bench minutes as a rookie at the same pace J.J. Redick did in Orlando.
And had Lewis accepted a contract extension the Sonics offered him in February which would have him signed through 2010-11, Durant might be looking at backing up a 20-point scorer who only turns 28 in August.
Lewis is two years younger than Vince Carter. He canned almost the same number of 3-point shots as Carter this season despite playing in 22 fewer games.
No, he hasn't played with a young big man comparable to Dwight Howard. In Lewis' second season with the Sonics, their leading rebounder was Horace Grant, who no longer fit in the Magic's plans. The following year, it was the fossilized Patrick Ewing.
Then again, what has being in New Jersey with Jason Collins in the middle done to prepare Carter for the possibility of life as a complement to Howard?
THE TERRIBLE TEENS
You can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of times the Magic haven't had a first-round draft pick. Their choice this year, which will be 15th overall, went to Detroit in the trade for Darko Milicic.
Maybe that's just as well. The last thing the Magic need is another Johnny Taylor, Reece Gaines, Ryan Humphrey or Steven Hunter clogging up roster and salary-cap space -- although Matt Harpring, who was taken by them with the No. 15 pick in 1998, is now a valuable reserve for the Utah Jazz.
Whoever their coach is when training camp rolls around ought to be clamoring for is a veteran who can stop Howard from getting double-teamed and triple-teamed so often.
Thanks to the fortuitous bounces of some ping-pong balls, Lewis could well be the Magic's man. Sources: Magic contact agent for Donovan
The UF coach says he hasn't spoken with the team, which wants to check his interest. The Orlando Magic have contacted the agent for University of Florida Coach Billy Donovan, trying to gauge his interest in becoming their next head coach.His interest, though, remained unclear Tuesday because neither Donovan nor anyone from the Magic was discussing the issue. Much of the Magic staff was at the NBA Predraft Camp that opened Tuesday at Disney's Wide World of Sports. Donovan was in Destin for the Southeastern Conference spring meetings.
"I haven't talked to those guys," Donovan told the Tampa Tribune in Destin Tuesday afternoon. Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley also said Tuesday that Donovan was "close" to agreeing to a contract extension to remain in Gainesville.Two NBA front office executives attending the camp confirmed that the contact had been made with the agency representing Donovan, although neither was certain of Donovan's interest. Donovan had spoken with the Memphis Grizzlies about their vacancy but he declined a formal interview.Magic General Manager Otis Smith, who fired coach Brian Hill last week to create the job opening, declined Tuesday to make any comment on his coaching search.Donovan may be at the top of their list of candidates -- he is coming off back-to-back NCAA titles at Florida -- but they also are expected to interview, or at least inquire about, several others, including Suns assistant Marc Iavaroni, Pistons assistant Terry Porter, former Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy and Spurs assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo.Another possibility for the Magic could be veteran Larry Brown, who has won both an NBA title in Detroit and an NCAA championship at Kansas. Brown, now a front-office executive in Philadelphia, said Tuesday that he could envision a return to coaching, but he declined to discuss the Magic opening or any other specific jobs.The Magic already have asked and received permission from the Suns to talk with Iavaroni.Carlesimo won't be available until after the San Antonio Spurs are finished with their playoff run."Marc is ready to become a head coach," said Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni. "He will do a great job wherever he goes. Anyone would fit in Orlando with the young talent they have."The Grizzlies, one of the five teams with a head-coaching vacancy, are expected to target Iavaroni, according to another official at the draft camp.Although Donovan doesn't have any NBA coaching experience, his success in Gainesville makes him extremely attractive to the Magic.And even competing NBA coaches believe he could overcome the inexperience at this level."If he took the Orlando job, he would be successful," said Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, who coached the Magic for 41/2 seasons. "He has the ability to be a great teacher and still allow his players to play with some freedom. That's a great combination."Rivers said Tuesday that he had no idea if Donovan would be interested in coaching the Magic, but he believed strongly that he would succeed despite all the failed attempts by previous college coaches trying to make the jump."I've never bought into that thinking that they can't make it in the NBA. It's still just basketball. If you're a good coach and you have talent, you can be successful,'' Rivers said. "He [Donovan] can coach. To win back-to-back national titles tells you a lot. He would be a good hire."Tim Povtak can be reached at tpovtak@orlandosentinel.com.

3 Comments:

  • At 3:50 PM, Blogger Big Figure said…

    ORLANDO - Otis Smith is the eyes, ears and pulse of the Orlando Magic, attending practices, accompanying team flights and chatting up players far more than is common for most NBA general managers.

    Smith wants to stay close so that when dysfunction arises, he's not only the first to know about it, but he also has a reference point with the players and coaches to deal with it swiftly.

    So when Smith sensed a disconnect between the Magic's players and coach Brian Hill and formed the opinion that change needed to be made, he acted.

    By firing Hill and leading the search for Orlando's next head coach, Smith has put himself squarely on the spot. The fate of the franchise rests in his hands and his next move will determine the direction it heads.

    And Smith, a paradox in that he is both totally unassuming and simultaneously confident, welcomes the pressure that comes with making such an important decision.

    "I'm OK with being in the line of fire," Smith said. "I'm either going to do the job that I was hired to do -- win a NBA championship -- or I'm not. There's not a whole lot of gray."

    That's often the case with Smith, whose message is usually about as subtle as a punch to the stomach. He doesn't shy away from the fact that he's the one who recommended that Hill be fired, and had team president Bob Vander Weide not insisted on a three-week evaluation process, the move would have come in the days after the Magic were swept out of the playoffs by Detroit.

    By whacking Hill after a season in which the Magic made a four-win improvement and made the playoffs for the first time since 2003, Smith made one thing clear: The standard is much higher than mediocre.

    He is brazen enough to talk of winning championships, even though Orlando hasn't even won a playoff series in 10 seasons. Smith just feels like shooting for anything less or accepting anything short of the ultimate prize would be short-changing the organization. The days of what he commonly calls, "reaching for the low-hanging fruit," are over.

    "Making the playoffs is not enough," he said emphatically. "Come in the playoffs and go out 4-0, that's not enough."

    Whoever the Magic's next coach is will come in knowing exactly what Smith expects of them. With him, there are no five-year plans or three-year windows. In his eyes, there is one winner and 29 losers each season. And when franchise center Dwight Howard hinted at the Magic making a championship run prior to last season, Smith smiled that his young star had finally elevated his goals.

    "The goal hasn't changed," Smith said. "The goal will never change. The goal is to bring a NBA championship to Orlando."

    Anticipating eyes will be on Smith most of the summer as he reshapes the Magic. First, he must hire the franchise's fifth head coach in the past five seasons. Then, he must spend the team's salary-cap dollars wisely, choosing among a free-agent class that includes Vince Carter, Chauncey Billups and Rashard Lewis. And finally, Smith can lock up the 7-foot duo of Dwight Howard (eligible for a contract extension) and Darko Milicic (a restricted free agent) for several years to come.

    Vander Weide said he has complete confidence that Smith will make the Magic a better basketball team this summer.

    "You get only so many opportunities and the next three-year cycle around Dwight and the other pieces we have is very important," Vander Weide said. "Regardless of who the (coaching) candidates are that we talk to, they are going to want to talk to us because we're at an attractive point in our history. We have Dwight, two 7-footers and a group of young players who can play a certain way. We didn't go that deep into the playoffs, but if you threw up a board of the four best young teams, we'd be listed. With our cap room too, we've got a great opportunity to improve this club."

    Smith finished just his first season as the full-time GM, but he's solidified his place in the organization with some top-rate transactions. He unloaded the burdensome contract and psyche of Steve Francis on the New York Knicks, and still got Trevor Ariza and cap room in return. And he swiped Milicic and Carlos Arroyo away from Detroit for the 15th pick in this June's NBA Draft.

    Those moves were big, but they will pale in comparison to his choosing of the Magic's next head coach.

    In the end, Smith was highly critical of Hill's style as a coach, feeling it was one that didn't get the most out of the talent available. The Magic's offense, which ranked 27th in scoring and 29th in assists and turnovers, was deemed "lacking imagination."

    And Smith could have said even worse things about the way Hill developed the Magic's young talent. J.J. Redick and Ariza rarely saw time in the playoffs and played only after prodding from the GM. Milicic remained in a reserve role despite outplaying Tony Battie for months. And Howard's development seemed to stall as the turnovers and missed free throws piled up.

    "When you go into an evaluation process, we started looking at everything -- the goods, bads, the indifferents," Smith said. "You try to see if we are going to be able to make the change? Are we going to be able to make the jump?

    "Are we going to be able to get to where we need to be? We concluded that we didn't think we had the right person at that time.

    "Brian did an outstanding job for our franchise. I'd be remiss if I don't say that. He did do an outstanding job with our young guys. But moving forward we wanted to be better than we are."

    The future will determine whether Hill or Smith were correct. Hill deemed the Magic's roster to be filled with potential, but remarkably flawed because of inexperience, carelessness with the basketball and lack of a dominant scorer. Smith, on the other hand, expects greatness out of the young core of Howard, Milicic, Jameer Nelson, Ariza and Redick. And with the boost provided by the player the magic will add in free agency, Smith sees no reason why the Magic shouldn't be at least a contender for a championship really soon.

    And the next coach he hires had better share that same vision.

    "I want somebody who can win a championship," he said, "somebody who can take this team to the next level."

    Contact Denton at jd41898@aol.com.
    BY JOHN DENTON
    FLORIDA TODAY

     
  • At 7:16 PM, Blogger OVERWADED said…

    Reports say Iavaroni has signed a 3 year deal with the Griz.

     
  • At 9:41 AM, Blogger Big Figure said…

    To find out if it were up to otis bsh wouldve been gone after the sweep means maybe we couldve contacted iavaroni earlier,bob's three week evaluation period may have hurt us in the iavaroni hiring.

     

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