Denton: Magic Excited About New Direction

By John Denton
September 18, 2012

ORLANDO -- When he’s out to dinner or attending events such as the one Monday night at the Amway Center for corporate sponsors, Orlando Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan is regularly approached by fans willing to offer opinions on the changes the team has made the past four months.

And somewhat to Hennigan’s surprise the reactions from Magic fans have been overwhelmingly positive about the new direction for the franchise. The sense that Hennigan has gotten is that the fan base is excited about a rebuilding effort that will center around acquiring selfless players who want to win and be in Orlando.

``I’ve been blown away by the support and the passion of our fans,’’ Hennigan said. ``Everybody that I’ve been fortunate enough to speak with has been excited about the new direction and has been enthusiastic about the changes and the new opportunities that they will create for us.’’

Hennigan and new Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn addressed more than 200 fans and corporate sponsors Monday night at an event at the Amway Center. Both Hennigan and Vaughn told the fans about the staffs they have hired and gave some insight into their visions for rebuilding the Magic.

Hennigan, 30, and Vaughn, 37, showed off some of the confidence and charisma that made them rising candidates across the NBA and respected hires by the Magic. Hennigan’s focus will be rebuilding the team over the long haul, while Vaughn will be pursing daily improvement from a relatively young roster.

``My mom used to tell me that the past and the future are really one thing – they are today,’’ Vaughn told the fans. ``People ask me how I’m going to coach and well, I’m coaching to worry about today. Each time we get on the floor, we’re going to worry about getting better that day. When you see us on the floor, we will be unselfish not every other night, but every night. We will be prepared every single night and we’ll have consistent effort every single night because that’s what our fans deserve.’’

Several of the Magic’s players have been at the team’s headquarters the past two weeks for voluntary workouts and conditioning sessions with athletic trainers. Training camp opens on Oct. 1 with Media Day and the Magic play their first preseason game on Oct. 7 in Mexico City against the New Orleans Hornets.

Hennigan said of the players who have already returned to Orlando to begin early preparations for training camp have done so with positive attitudes and a willingness to work. Hennigan and Vaughn have talked to the players about the expectations for the season, and the new Magic GM likes the mix veterans and youngsters that the team has assembled.

``The enthusiasm and the attention to detail that everyone has been showing as they are trickling back into town has been a very positive sign. There’s a sincere desire to come back here with a professional approach and a team-first approach and that’s something that’s exciting to see,’’ Hennigan said. ``Over the summer, Jacque and I talked to all of the guys about the identity and the culture that we’re trying to create. A lot of the guys seemed refreshed by that idea and ready to embark on that journey.’’

With rookies Moe Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn on the roster, Vaughn said there will be a heavy emphasis placed on player development, especially early in the season. Vaughn hired a coaching staff that specializes in development, especially young coaches such as Brett Gunning and Luke Stuckey. Vaughn is excited about having a young coaching staff that is hungry and excited about teaching the game.

``Brett Gunning is by far one of the top five development coaches that we have in this league. For me, that’s a huge component for us moving forward,’’ Vaughn said. ``We have to develop the guys that we have in our locker room, whether it’s Moe Harkless, Kyle O’Quinn or Andrew Nicholson. We have to make those guys mature at a quicker rate that other coaches do in the league. … I don’t care if they are Division III coaches, Roy Williams or (former high school coach) Luke Stuckey, if you are passionate about Magic basketball then we want them here.’’

Vaughn also desperately wants to build something special in Orlando. He predicted that someday fans could possibly look back to Monday night and remember it as a starting point to a championship foundation being built in Orlando.

``I’ve had the fortune of holding up a championship trophy as a player and boy do I ever want to do it as a coach and boy would I ever like to do it here in Orlando,’’ he said. ``I hope to look back on this someday and say, `Remember when we talked about this day.’ I’m excited to get started.’’

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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