Denton: Hennigan Ready for Challenges
By John Denton
June 21, 2012
ORLANDO – Measured in his thoughts and extremely detailed in his vision for the future, General Manager Rob Hennigan talked on Thursday about the process that he will use to rebuild the Orlando Magic into a championship contender.
That process, Hennigan stressed, will not be hindered by him being the youngest GM in the NBA at 30 years old. Instead, Hennigan will use the experiences and values taught to him during successful stints in San Antonio and Oklahoma City to shape the values he tries to impart on the Magic as the team’s new director of basketball operations. Ultimately, how successful he is with the Magic will depend more on his ability to develop relationships and evaluate talent than his relatively youthful age.
``I think the underlying factor is the relationships that you have around the league and the level of respect that you deal with,’’ said Hennigan, who met with the media on Thursday after being officially hired by the Magic on Wednesday. ``Age is what it is, but you are judged on the quality of your work and the way you treat people and how you handle your business. I’m confident that we’ll be able to put ourselves in position to make really good decisions for our organization.’’
Hennigan, a native of Worchester, Mass., was hired by the Magic because of his championship experience, his skills as a player personnel evaluator and his ability to devise strategic plans for an organization. He spent four seasons in San Antonio and another four in Oklahoma City where he helped those franchises cull talent from the draft that allowed them to have sustained success. Hennigan said his experiences undoubtedly have shaped him as a leader and will play a big role in how he directs the Magic’s on-court product.
``The easy answer is a lot of work,’’ Hennigan said of his remarkable climb from intern with the Spurs to GM of the Magic in eight years time. ``I’ve had the fortune to work in some incredible places and with some incredible people who have instilled certain beliefs and philosophies in me. We’re all creatures of habit and creatures of our environment and I’m a beneficiary of those things.’’
Hennigan, who planned to start reaching out to current Magic players on Thursday, will have his work cut out for him right away with several huge, potentially franchise-altering decisions to make. He will lead the process of hiring a head coach to replace Stan Van Gundy, who was relieved of duties on May 21. Hennigan will also make the call on Wednesday’s NBA Draft when the Magic select 19th and 49th.
Also, there are decisions to make about the immediate futures of Jameer Nelson (possibly opting out of contract), J.J. Redick (non-guaranteed contract) and Ryan Anderson (a restricted free agent). And, of course, the future of franchise center Dwight Howard is still very much up in the air after he had season-ending back surgery and has since remained in Los Angeles. As it relates to the Howard situation, Hennigan said he will attempt to ``remain emotion-neutral’’ and ``lean on the preparation that you gather to make a decision that is in the best interest of the organization.’’
Hennigan stressed that he was up to the task for making those decisions and acknowledged that he will work in collaboration with the DeVos family and CEO Alex Martins.
``There’s no question that there’s pressure because this is a pressure business,’’ said Hennigan, who flew to Oklahoma City on Thursday night and will return to Orlando this weekend to begin his Magic duties. ``You’ve got to earn your keep because no one will do any favors for you. So we’ll keep our head down, sleeves rolled up and get to work.’’
Martins said that Hennigan came highly recommended to the Magic because of his smarts, worth ethic and disciplined principles. Martins also liked the quality of Hennigan’s experience in San Antonio and Oklahoma City and said that trumped any concerns that there might have been over him being just 30 years old.
``As you read Rob’s resume it doesn’t have his age on it,’’ Martins said. ``His experience, what he’s done and the organizations that he’s been with far exceed his years. Clearly, that’s what’s important. It’s important the experiences that he’s had, the people that he’s worked with and the roles that he had in San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Age is not a factor. Experience, who you have worked for and the habits you have developed – that’s what is important in being successful in this world.’’
While in San Antonio, Hennigan was impacted greatly by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and he was a part of championship teams in 2005 and ’07. He played a major role in the Spurs hitting on late first-round picks with George Hill and Tiago Splitter.
Hennigan ultimately left the Spurs to join GM Sam Presti where he ultimately rose to becoming the Assistant GM/Player Personnel Director. He helped the Thunder become one of the NBA’s model franchises by building a powerhouse team through the draft.
In Hennigan’s time in Oklahoma City, the Thunder drafted particularly well. He was part of a team that has drafted Russell Westbrook (2008), Serge Ibaka (2008), James Harden (2009), Rodrigue Beaubois (2009), Eric Bledsoe (2010) and Quincy Pondexter (2010).
``Building through the draft is critical, especially going into the new CBA. The draft is the most streamlined, economic model to building a team,’’ Hennigan said. ``As for the players drafted, they are all different. But the players we’ve been fortunate to draft have all had similarities in their makeup and how they approached the game and their discipline and vision.’’
Hennigan said approximately four years ago he first entertained the idea of someday managing his own team as a GM. He admitted to being ``humbled and flattered,’’ by the Magic’s interest in him as a GM candidate and called the chance ``an instance where preparation met opportunity.’’ Now, he’s eager to prove that his experiences and principles as a strategist and talent evaluator will him rebuild the Magic.
``The more time that I spent with Alex and the DeVos family, the more comfortable that I got with their vision and the values that they want to instill and the things they want this organization to embody,’’ Hennigan said. ``Those things are compatible with my own instincts and beliefs. In that sense, it made it a pretty unique match.
``Simply put, our goal is to build an elite basketball operation both on the court and off the court,’’ Hennigan said. ``If we can stay strategic and stay systematic the end goal is to be sustainable. We want to create something that has some longevity and continuity to it. We want to put into place a basketball operations department and players that this city and all of Central Florida can rally around, support and be proud of. … We’re going to embrace the daily grind and embrace chipping away at trying to get better. It’s a humbling exciting day and I’m ready to get to work.’’
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