1989-90: The Inaugural Season
Williams hired Matt Guokas as the team's first head coach. Guokas had played in the NBA from 1966 to 1976, suiting up for six different teams. He played his longest stint, 4 1/2 seasons, with the Philadelphia 76ers at the start of his career. As a rookie he was a reserve guard on the Sixers' 1967 NBA championship team. After retiring, Guokas served as a broadcaster for the Sixers and then became an assistant to Coach Billy Cunningham (he was at Cunningham's side when Philadelphia won the NBA title in 1983). When Cunningham stepped down after the 1984-85 season, Guokas became the Sixers' head coach. He served 2 1/2 seasons in that capacity before being replaced by Jim Lynam midway through the 1987-88 campaign.

The Magic selected 12 players in the 1989 NBA Expansion Draft, including Reggie Theus, Scott Skiles, Terry Catledge, Sam Vincent, Otis Smith, and Jerry Reynolds. Then, in the NBA Draft, Orlando selected University of Illinois guard-forward Nick Anderson with the 11th overall pick.

The club's inaugural season started on a positive note before taking a more typical expansion-team downswing. The Magic began play on November 4, 1989, before a sellout crowd at the Orlando Arena. The debut lineup consisted of Terry Catledge, Jerry Reynolds, Dave Corzine, Reggie Theus, and Sam Vincent. Orlando lost to the New Jersey Nets, 111-106, despite a strong performance from Catledge, a fifth-year forward who produced the first double-double in team history with 25 points and 16 rebounds.

Two nights later the Magic chalked up the first victory in team history by defeating the New York Knicks, 118-110, behind a 24-point contribution from Theus. Two nights after that the team had its first winning streak and a winning record (2-1) after a 117-110 victory against the Cavaliers at Cleveland. Orlando went 7-7 in its first month, the best start ever by an expansion team.

The team's fortunes took a more predictable turn after its initial success, and the Magic struggled to an 11-57 mark over the rest of the season. Despite faltering as a team, several Magic players turned in standout individual performances. Catledge scored 49 points against the Golden State Warriors. Vincent recorded the first triple-double in team history when he tallied 21 points, 17 assists, and 11 rebounds in a victory over the Indiana Pacers. Theus, his 12-year career nearing its conclusion, hit 50 consecutive free throws in January. Michael Ansley pulled down 13 offensive rebounds in a February 1 game against the Bucks at Milwaukee, setting an Orlando record and an NBA high that season.

The Magic were one of the league's most prolific offensive teams in 1989-90, scoring 110.9 points per game to rank fifth overall. However, Orlando was the league's worst club defensively, allowing opponents 119.8 points per game. It all added up to a first-year record of 18-64. The Minnesota Timberwolves, the other expansion team to begin play in 1989-90, finished at 22-60. Orlando notched three of its victories against the New Jersey Nets, who finished with a league-worst 17-65 record.

None of this mattered to Orlando fans, who were happy just to be witnesses to the NBA spectacle. The Magic had 33 consecutive sellouts at home, playing to an average of 15,060 fans. Terry Catledge (19.4 ppg) and Reggie Theus (18.9) were the team's leading scorers for the season. Five other players-Sam Vincent, Jerry Reynolds, Nick Anderson, Otis Smith, and Sidney Green-also averaged in double figures. Green was the top rebounder with 8.1 boards per game, followed by Catledge with 7.6.


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