By John Denton
April 14, 2017
ORLANDO – Undoubtedly, the DeVos family ownership group and CEO Alex Martins will have the final say on who the Orlando Magic ultimately select as their new General Manager.
But those who will work the closest with the new GM on a day-to-day basis – head coach Frank Vogel and Magic players expected to return next season – have opinions on what they think makes for a great dynamic between GM and coach and GM and players. After all, it is those relationships and interactions that could go the farthest in helping the Magic make major strides in the very near future.
Vogel, for one, is hopeful that the Magic – which fired GM Rob Hennigan and Assistant GM Scott Perry on Thursday – will pick a leader of the Basketball Operations department who understands that the franchise isn’t that far away from being successful and wants to win right away.
“I think our mindset is to win now and I’m hopeful that whoever we bring in here shares that approach,’’ Vogel said a day after the Magic wrapped up a 29-53 regular season. “I think our fans have endured enough losing and it’s time to get this thing into the playoffs as quickly as we can. That’s my mindset.’’
The Magic had the mindset that five years was long enough to build the franchise into a playoff contender and when that didn’t happen it cost Hennigan and Perry their jobs. Orlando is 132-178 over the past five years – the second-worst mark in the NBA over that time period. Also, after appearing in the postseason six straight years from 2007-12, Orlando has been out of the playoffs each of the last five years – the longest such drought in franchise history.
Matt Lloyd, who has 13 years of NBA experience with the Chicago Bulls and five more with the Magic, was chosen to take over as the Interim GM. Lloyd, who helped to scout and draft many of the players on the Magic’s current roster, will also be a candidate for the full-time GM job.
The NBA Draft Lottery will be held on May 15 and the NBA Draft is June 22, but Martins said the Magic won’t be rushed into picking a new GM because of the importance of the position.
“The factor that is going to dictate (the pace of the search) is that there are some individuals that we’re interested in who (have teams that) are playing in the NBA playoffs and we’re not going to be able to talk to them until their teams are eliminated,’’ Martins said. “And I think it’s in our best interests to identify the right individual and talk to those who are involved in the playoffs. That’s what is going to dictate the majority of the timeframe.
“In terms of being prepared for the draft, I have no concerns about that whatsoever because I have a very high amount of confidence in Matt Lloyd and his team to prepare us for the draft,’’ Martins continued. “He’ll have everything lined up and prepared for when we do hire a GM, including if it is him. … Frank (Vogel) will be a big part of that (NBA Draft) preparation as well and he’ll work closely with Matt over the next several weeks in leading the Basketball Operations staff.’’
Martins stressed that whomever the Magic hire as GM will have to be accepting of Vogel as the team’s head coach going forward. Martins feels that Vogel’s track record of success as a head coach and his driven personality will be exceptionally strong selling points in attracting premier GM candidates.
Vogel, who has worked as a head coach, assistant coach, scout and video coordinator in his 17 years at the NBA level, said he has no ambition of a dual role where he is both the head coach and GM. While some in the NBA have had success holding both jobs simultaneously, Vogel feels its better to have different people in those jobs because the difference in responsibilities and perspectives.
“(Being GM) is tough because a lot of times you make the right moves or moves that make sense at the time and for whatever reason they don’t work out,’’ Vogel said. “You can put the best players in the world together and players don’t click with others. That happens in pro sports all the time and (team-building) is not an easy job, but it’s definitely doable.
“I’m not pushing for that (GM job) because I’m a basketball coach,’’ Vogel continued. “It’s a difficult thing to do both because you have to separate your emotions. A lot of times, the coach wants to trade a different player every other game and obviously you can’t do that. I like the coach/GM dynamic of them viewing things from afar, them studying the league differently than I do and them taking an entire year studying the NBA Draft versus a coach finishing the year and trying to cram it all in. There’s an important separation there.’’
With NBA GMs there are usually two schools of thought as it relates to handling the day-to-day ebbs and flows of a team. Some GMs are extremely hands on in their approach, wanting to be present for as many practices, games, bus rides and events so that they see the highs and lows for themselves while also building strong relationships with players and coaches. Other GMs prefer to keep their distance so as to not crowd coaches. Also, they prefer to not have tight relationships with players. With that approach, GMs prefer to depend more on the analytical data than their gut instincts – a style that allows them to remove emotion from the equation.
Asked which style he prefers, Vogel joked: “Not too hot, not too cold, just right – the Goldilocks’ answer, right? In all honesty, my perfect situation is someone who is there every day and we talk about everything every day. They give me ideas and I give them ideas.’’
Magic franchise fixtures Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier said the working relationship between players and GMs can be critical in the success of a team. Players want to be heard because they are the ones out on the court, and Vucevic and Fournier are hopeful that the Magic lean toward a GM with strong communication and leadership skills with their next hire.
“I think it’s important to have a good relationship with the people that you work with and I felt like I had a good relationship with Rob,’’ said Vucevic, who is the longest-tenured player on the Magic at five years. “We spoke whenever something needed to be talked about and we’d catch up on things. With teammates, you don’t have to be great friends off the court, but on the court it’s important to have a great working relationship. The same goes with coaches and front office (and players) and needing that good relationship if things aren’t going the right way.’’
Added Fournier, who has played with the Magic for three seasons after spending his first years in the NBA in Denver: “My first General Manager, Masai (Ujiri), we didn’t see him a lot and we’d never hear from him. Rob wasn’t the opposite, but he was more present. It really depends on the individual (as GM). Really, it’s a weird relationship (between player and GM) because it’s business, but at the same time you have to have a trust in one another. The most important thing is being honest and telling each other the truth. Players and GMs both want to win, so you have to work together to achieve the same goal. But, for me, the perfect relationship (with a GM) would be having trust in one another, but knowing that it’s business and don’t have any emotions.’’
Vogel said he will make suggestions to ownership and to Martins a few NBA executives who he thinks will make strong candidates for the Magic. He also has a good idea of some of the traits that he hopes the next GM will possess, such as strong communication skills, a track record of team-building knowledge and a desire to embrace a teamwork approach.
And Vogel is a strong believer that the difference-making abilities of a new GM could help the Magic get over the hump and into the playoffs as soon as next season.
“One of the reasons that I took this job is that I believe we have the resources here to get that (GM) job done at a high level,’’ Vogel said. “The ownership that we have is one of the best in the league, the warm weather (in Orlando), this great (Amway Center) building here, the owners are willing to spend money, no state taxes (in Florida) and they’ve had success here in the past.
“I do believe that (winning and losing) is cyclical,’’ Vogel continued. “You see it all throughout sports that a team gets down for a few years, the draft picks come around, they get a little bit older, the talent replenishes and you make the proper adjustments and you’re back on the map. I believe that’s the direction we’re going. We will be back on the map and contending in the Eastern Conference very soon.’’
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