Magic's Head Coach Position is an Attractive Opportunity for Potential Candidates

by John Denton

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic are poised to start the process of hiring their fifth head coach since 2012, something that theoretically could give potential candidates temporary cause for concern.

However, Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said he can quickly clear up any questions about the coaching opening by detailing the experiences of his own that led him to Orlando nearly a year ago. Soon, Weltman promised, everyone in the basketball world will see that the Magic are a highly appealing place to work because of a variety of overwhelmingly strong factors.

``I don’t feel (the coaching opening) needs to be sold,’’ Weltman said with conviction. ``I feel that, organizationally, we’re solid. I feel that we have some young players who we are hopeful can develop into some high-quality guys. And we’re excited about our draft pick.’’

The Magic are in the market for a new coach after the organization fired Frank Vogel on Thursday. Vogel was 54-110 in two seasons in Orlando and was let go earlier in the week upon the completion of a disappointing 25-57 season.

Orlando could potentially be in competition for top head coaching candidates considering that Charlotte, New York, Milwaukee, Memphis and Phoenix also fired their head coaches either midseason or this week. Weltman, who along with GM John Hammond has a combined 64 years of experience in pro basketball, believes that the Magic have the most attractive position available because of all they have to offer.

Some 11 months ago, Weltman was a part of a perennial playoff powerhouse with the Toronto Raptors, and he was completely content in Canada after moving his wife and young daughters around four times in the previous 11 years. However, his interest was piqued when the Magic approached him about a job leading their basketball operations department – a position he was eventually hired to do. The same pull will ultimately be the case with the next coach because of all the Magic have to offer, Weltman predicted.

``If I have to go into sales mode, (the pitch) would just be the same things that brought me here (to Orlando) from Toronto when I wasn’t looking to leave,’’ Weltman said. ``I think we have a sensational fan base, a stable and supportive ownership group, autonomy to do our jobs as we see fit and a long-range, patient vision for how this thing will work.

``And I’m not even touching on the Central Florida lifestyle or the no state taxes, and I think we have to earn that conversation,’’ Weltman continued. ``But I think the first part of that is very attractive to many people and I think coaches want to get into situations like that with the Magic.’’

Though the Magic have been in a six-year lull where they have failed to make the playoffs, the franchise still has a storied history of success. Over the last 26 seasons – the amount of time that the Magic have been owned by Rich DeVos and family – Orlando has had 16 instances in which it has been .500 or better, which is tied for the fourth-most times in the Eastern Conference and tied for the 11th-most in the NBA. Similarly, Orlando has made the playoffs 14 times in the past 26 years – a mark that is the sixth-most in the East and tied for 13thin the NBA.

Another constant reminder of that success is the fact that Weltman can see banners from the 1995 and 2009 Eastern Conference championships hanging just outside his office window in the Magic’s practice facility. Also, Weltman’s office isn’t too far away from the Amway Center monuments for a Magic Hall of Fame that boasts Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Tracy McGrady.

Weltman said it’s that kind of storied success in the franchise that he is eager to help the Magic get back to and he knows that the hiring of the next coach will be a critical step in that process. Weltman is well aware of how hungry Magic fans are for a winning product – as evidenced by the franchise enjoying its highest attendance numbers in seven seasons despite the struggles on the court. He now wants to do everything in his power make the Magic winners again. Doing that, he said, will involve securing the best coaching candidate available and also patiently re-building the Magic’s roster with talented and seasoned players.

``I know what (Magic fans) have endured, but, as I said before, `If you’ve got to take your medicine, you’ve got to take your medicine,’’’ Weltman noted, referring to the often slow and painful process of rebuilding. ``You can’t shortcut it.

``I would say this: There’s urgency to build this team the right way,’’ he added. ``I can tell you that we have urgency to get this thing going the right way and build a sustainable winner here, but we’re not going to shortcut it to try and put a playoff team on the floor next year if it costs us future assets that could pay big dividends for us down the road.’’

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.