In case you’ve missed the big news, Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn is the NBA’s second coach to see the dreaded axe this season.
Vaughn did not have a competitive team to use in his time with the Magic, however he still struggled mightily beyond what would have been expected. Vaughn compiled a 58-158 throughout his time in Orlando, and will go down as Orlando’s coach with the worst winning record in Magic history. He experienced victory in 26.9% of his games.
The Magic brass were patient with Vaughn throughout the first two seasons, as they understood that the tanking process would not allow them to win many games. All GM Rob Hennigan and CEO Alex Martins wanted to see were signs of progress; signs that their players were developing.
Unfortunately, Orlando’s record at the time of Vaughn’s firing was no improvement on last season at the same time, when they were also 15-37.
With the team playing in the Eastern Conference –which is notoriously in much worse shape compared to the West– NBA fans would have even expected more of the Magic. This was the case at the Amway Center. With Jacque Vaughn at the helm, the Magic compiled a 5-17 record, the worst home record in the league. Orlando was a better team with Vaughn away from home surprisingly, as the young Magic team were 10-20.
Vaughn didn’t have much to work with in Orlando. Once he was hired in the 2012/13 off-season, Hennigan initiated a Dwight Howard trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, bringing back young and exciting prospects and picks back in the process. Vaughn’s star was ripped away from him, even after the Magic attempted to appease Dwight by electing for player over coach, as Stan Van Gundy, the previous Orlando coach was fired due to a poor relationship with the eight-time All-Star.
As Howard left, so did the rest of the Magic veterans. Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis, Ryan Anderson, JJ Redick and Jameer Nelson were all ripped from Vaughn, preventing him to the chance relish the opportunity to coach the Magic to a winning record.
This shouldn’t matter however, as upon taking the job, Vaughn would’ve that there was a long-term player development plan in place. Honestly, I think what was expected of Vaughn was fair. Each year Jacque was expected to help the players grow individually and as a team, while make a small impact on improving the winning record each year.
In the second-rate Eastern conference, this was extremely possible. Especially so when you looked at the Magic on paper.
Unfortunately for Vaughn, games aren’t won when the Magic rate 25th in offense and defense.
For me, I believe that Orlando should be winning more often in the East compared to the Celtics, 76ers, Knicks and Pacers. They should at least be competitive with the Heat, Hornets, Pistons and Bucks.
It’s easy to see why Vaughn was let go, with the Magic behind all the teams other than the 76ers and Knicks, whom are exceedingly bad.
While Vaughn couldn’t get the wins on the board, what did he do for the development of Orlando’s young core?
Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless are draft picks that have spent at least two and a half seasons with Jacque Vaughn in Orlando. How have they fared in their individual year-by-year development?
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It’s clear Vucevic has developed well under the tutelage of Vaughn. He was acquired as a little-used big man from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Dwight Howard trade, but has blossomed into a center truly worthy of being the successor to D12.
Vaughn had Vucevic playing at an All-Star level, and should be thanked for providing him the minutes and tutelage that has seen him become a success. This culminated with a 4-year/$48M deal last off-season, a worthy reward for the work he’s put in.
Harris was another gem uncovered by the Magic via trade. After averaging 11 minutes per game in Milwaukee, Tobias became a quality starter in Orlando, playing 30 minutes and more per encounter. Harris experienced a dip in the 2013/14 season, and has not experienced the same quality season that he did when arriving in Orlando.
Harris hasn’t improved statistically after year one with the Magic, but he still remains a key cog for Orlando. Vaughn has still managed to develop Tobias into a versatile four-man. Harris can score, defend and pass, a rarity for players at that position.
Life was easy for Moe Harkless when playing 25 minutes night in, night out was a regular occurance. Unfortunately for him, Vaughn recruited depth into his position, now competing with Aaron Gordon, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Channing Frye for minutes.
The first two seasons in the league from Harkless were mediocre statistic-wise, putting up below par numbers. His potential has never truly rubbed off under Vaughn, who’s relegated him to a role playing only 14.5 minutes an outing. Harkless deserves less minutes though, as his full potential unlike the majority of the Magic’s young talent.
Vaughn has done an adequate job of managing the talent in Orlando. While some have truly thrived (Vucevic), others have failed (Harkless). While it can be argued that the Magic now look better as a team, the results truly haven’t conspired on the court. Because at the time of Vaughn’s firing the Magic’s record was the same, Vaughn did a slightly mediocre job of creating the team chemistry required to compete.
Jacque deserved to be fired, and in truth, it should have happened before the 10-game losing streak to end his short, 2 and-a-half year Magic coaching career.
I hope that Rob Hennigan will elect to go for an experienced name for his next potential head coach. Scott Skiles, George Karl and fired Sacramento coach Michael Malone are all options for the Magic.
For the next head coach, I’d look at hiring former Magic guard Scott Skiles to complete the “full circle” and return to his NBA Jam stomping ground with Orlando.
Skiles is a proven, veteran leader with the mental capabilities to bring the Magic to the next level over the long-term.
Orlando will be better without Jacque Vaughn.