Denton: Magic Introduce Vaughn

By John Denton
July 30, 2012


ORLANDODuring his 12 seasons as a NBA player, Jacque Vaughn didn’t so much play for coaching greats Jerry Sloan, Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich as he did study, analyze and learn from them on a daily basis.

As far back as his college days at Kansas and throughout his time in the NBA, Vaughn scribbled ideas onto notepads, made mental notes and kept logs of playbooks that he executed on the court. Xs-and-Os sessions were akin to reconnaissance missions where Vaughn studied how those coaches attacked certain sets. When player issues arose on the various teams he played for, Vaughn looked on from afar at how those coaches handled the situations. And when Vaughn served as an assistant coach under Popovich in San Antonio, he basically shadowed the four-time champion head coach, repeatedly asking questions and absorbing knowledge that he could use someday when he became a head coach himself.

Vaughn, 37, is hoping that all of those lessons learned and notes that he took will make him a success now that he is the Orlando Magic’s new head coach. Vaughn is a head coach for the first time, but he feels that all of his years of studying under greats like Sloan, Popovich and Rivers will speed up his learning curve as the Magic’s new leader.

``Some would say I'm inexperienced, but I’ve played 12 years and I’ve coached two years. Would my resume look a little nicer if it said 14 years of experience? Maybe so,’’ Vaughn said.

``But I’ve sat in the seats that (the players) have sat in. I’ll be able to relate to their personal, physical and mental stresses that they come across every day because I’ve been there. I think they’ll relate to that and they’ll appreciate that, and they’ll know that I’m fighting for them and I believe in them.’’

Vaughn was officially hired on Saturday and introduced Monday by Magic Chairman Dan DeVos, CEO Alex Martins and General Manager Rob Hennigan. Vaughn emerged from a pool of finalists that included Michael Curry and Lindsey Hunter after meeting with the DeVos family in Michigan last week. Vaughn met four generations of DeVoses and was chosen in large part because of his bubbly charisma, strategic smarts and strong communication skills.

Vaughn, the second-youngest coach in the NBA, joked on Monday that the Magic were ``sticking their necks out’’ by hiring him. But Martins shot down that premise, saying the franchise is totally confident that Vaughn is the right man for the job.

``I don’t think we’re sticking our necks out at all. Jacque’s a high character individual who's going to work as hard or harder than anybody else, he’s going to put great people around him, and his teams will work hard every single night,’’ Martins said. ``I’m convinced of it, and I think he clearly is prepared for this opportunity. So I don’t think we’ve taken a risk or stuck our necks out at all. He’s the right coach for this organization at this point in our history.’’

This isn’t the first time that the Magic have hired a former point guard with no prior head coaching experience. In fact, the similarities between Vaughn and Rivers, Orlando’s coach from 1999 through 2004, are somewhat shocking.

Both Vaughn and Rivers were thought to be coach-on-the-floor point guard types during their playing careers, both had previous ties to the Spurs, neither had been a head coach prior to coming to Orlando and both were 37 years old when hired by the Magic. And get this – both even have sons named Jeremiah. Rivers, of course, won the Coach of the Year award in Orlando in 2000 and went on to win a championship in Boston in 2008.

Vaughn played for Rivers in Orlando during the 2002-03 season, and he said he picked up many motivational tactics from the former Magic mentor. He did the same in Utah where he learned competitiveness and consistency from Sloan. And in San Antonio as both a player and assistant coach the past two seasons, Vaughn looked on as Popovich coaxed greatness out of an aging roster, focused on the development of younger players and got creative with his style of coaching.

All of those notes are down on pads and journals, and Vaughn plans to reference them in the days, weeks and months ahead as he coaches a team for the first time. He said that learning from situations – both good and bad – will help prepare him for his first season as head coach.

``I was a collector and I tried to gather information and stuff from each coach. They are things that I hoped over time would help me (as a head coach) and now that situation is going to present itself. Hopefully I took good notes,’’ Vaughn said. ``I kept video notes, mental notes and actual notes on pads and things like that. It was situations that I was involved in and how they were handled. I was given a unique opportunity where I had all access and I could see good and bad how they were handled. I owe a lot to a lot of people for that.’’

One situation that Vaughn has to handle where there may be no prior experience is the one surrounding all-star center Dwight Howard, who has repeatedly requested a trade. The Magic have been hesitant to deal the three-time Defensive Player of the Year because they haven’t liked the packages being offered for the superstar.

Vaughn said that he plans to reach out to all of the Magic players in the coming days, including visiting as many of them in person as possible. That includes Howard, whom Vaughn would like to talk with about his vision for the future. Vaughn said that much of his strategies will depend on whether Howard is on the roster or not, but he intends to remain flexible depending on how the potential trade scenarios unfold.

``I just embrace the challenge and whatever the situation ends up being I’ll embrace the challenge,’’ Vaughn said. ``I reiterated throughout the (hiring) process that that’s what makes me unique – I look forward to the challenges. Whatever it may be (with Howard), I’ll deal with it and we’ll go forward as an organization.’’

Hennigan, who met with Howard last week in Los Angeles, said the hiring of Vaughn doesn’t necessarily signal a rebuilding process being underway in Orlando. He simply asked for patience as the Magic re-tool the roster and attempt to build something that is sustainable for the future.

``One thing we’ll tell our fans is that we’ll continue look at all options to try and improve this team. And we’ll continue to build piece by piece (and) brick by brick, into something that is sustainable,’’ Hennigan said. ``At the end of the day, it’s about putting a group of guys on the floor that want to be coached by Jacque, who want to be led by Jacque and represent the values and attributes that our fan base can really rally around.’’

As for the style of play that his teams will employ, Vaughn said that will again borrow certain aspects from all of the various coaches that he’s played for in college and the NBA. And because there is so much roster uncertainty because of the ongoing Howard saga, Vaughn insisted that flexibility will be of the utmost importance.

``Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape,’’ Vaughn said to a host of laughs during his introductory news conference. ``For me, it’s about putting guys in position to make plays. I will not call a play every single time down the floor and my demeanor on the sidelines is calmer. I won’t be garish at all and I think players will be receptive to that and will want to play hard. As long as I can teach them and they will be receptive, then I’ll let them make plays.’’

Another thing that might make Vaughn different from other NBA coaches is his love for poetry and he said he won’t be afraid to quote passages from time to time to ram home a point to his players. In addition to saying that poetry ``shows a vulnerability and a sensitivity and to me it’s OK having that in coaching,’’ Vaughn even quoted lines from Maya Angelou in his introductory news conference. ``Some people might forget what you said and how you said it, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel,’’ Vaughn recited. ``For me that’s extremely important.’’

Vaughn added that he isn’t afraid to say that he has a lot of learning to do as far as serving as a head coach. But again lessons taught to him by Popovich should serve him well as the Magic’s new head coach.

``I am comfortable saying that I will be learning as I go,’’ he said. ``Being around Pop, you get a great inner balance where your skin gets a little thicker, but you don’t take yourself too seriously. That’s a great balance to have as a coach. I know what comes with this job and I’m prepared for it.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.



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