Rob Hennigan & Alex Martins Press Conference Transcripts on Scott Skiles Resignation
May 12, 2016
General Manager Rob Hennigan
Obviously, you met with Scott about a year ago in his house for about eight hours. What happened between that time and now that brought us here?
“This is certainly a challenging day for us, an unexpected day. I think that when Scott and I first met a year ago, we had some great dialogue. We talked a lot about basketball philosophy, basketball character and the things that we look for in players. Quite honestly, that dialogue continued throughout the entire course of the season. And so, with the news that we received from Scott yesterday, obviously we were very surprised by it. It took us aback a little bit. After talking to Scott, and having more dialogue, it became apparent that he came to this conclusion and felt like it was the right thing for him and his family to do, so we reluctantly accepted his resignation.”
Is this a tug of war over personnel, over roster?
“Not at all. Not from my view, not from my seat. I think Scott would echo this. We had really good dialogue throughout the season. Good dialogue means a lot of different things. It means agreements, disagreements, debates, arguments, jokes, and we certainly had all of that. That is what healthy organizations have in terms of communication. I really did feel like we had that.”
You said that you were surprised yesterday. Was there anything leading up to yesterday, maybe that would have given you a hint? Did Scott say anything before then? Was there any sort of a big debate?
“I don't think there was one particular thing that stands out. I think that, again, we had a lot of dialogue throughout the course of the season, as you could imagine. Lots of different things were discussed, but I can’t recall one point in time that would indicate that.”
So he just called you guys yesterday and said “I am resigning?”
“He told us yesterday.”
Everyone seemed to think that the season was a success. You made a 10-win improvement, that Scott had done a good job – was he frustrated with how the season went? Do you think that pain was still with him, that he couldn’t reach this group?
“Well, quite honestly, the pain is still with all of us. We wanted to make the playoffs and we didn’t. We have some work to do there. Now at the same time, we do feel like we made progress this year. I have said that. I think Scott has said that. I want to make it clear that Scott Skiles did a heck of a job for us this year. We improved in a lot of categories. Scott bought a really good structure, discipline and accountability to our team that our team has not only benefited from in the short term, but I truly believe will benefit from even more in the long term. And we believe in Scott Skiles. We believe in Scott and his ability to coach. He is a heck of a coach.”
You have talked about the process all along. How does this impact the process with such big decisions, free agency and draft coming up?
“Well, it certainly impacts it. You can’t say that it doesn’t impact it. While this is a challenging day, we have to now look at it as an opportunity to find a new coach, who fits our team and who can propel us forward. We do have some big decisions to make, relative to the draft and free agency. Our philosophy all long is that we make decisions mutually, and we collaborate and we discuss things as an entire staff. And we will continue to do that once we get the new coach in place.”
What do you sell a free agent on though when this will be the third coach in two years?
“I think the sales pitch is pretty straight forward. We have a really good, young core. We have means to improve the team. We have vehicles to improve the team with cap space and draft picks. We have a great city, great weather, no state tax, great ownership. We are a first-class organization. I feel confident that we have a compelling pitch to make.”
Did he give you any indication of why he resigning? And also, how are you guys going to deal with the remaining years on his contract?
“You will have to ask Scott that. We have had conversations, obviously. I am not going to sit here and disclose those specifics, you’ll have to ask Scott about that. Relative to his contract, we don’t disclose any details. I will tell you that we have a separation agreement in place. I am not going to give you any more details than that.
Coaches, especially when there are only 30 jobs in the entire world of this, don’t often leave on their own accord, and don’t often leave money on the table on their own accord. Did he give you any indication that he was that desperate to leave? Are you now feeling any type of desperation, in terms of trying to right this ship?
“I don't know if desperation is the right word, but there is a sense of urgency to make sure that we find a coach as soon as possible, and make sure that we find the right coach. Again, you would have to ask Scott about the specifics that you are inquiring about. I will tell you that over the however many months that Scott and I worked together, close to 12; Scott is very principled. I respect that about him. He is honest. He is up front. He’s straight forward. And we are going to miss Scott Skiles.”
Did Scott respect you, you think?
“You would have to ask Scott that question. I would hope so, but you would have to ask Scott.”
But do you feel that, asking him. You had a relationship; do you think that he respected you?
Do you think that he liked the players that you put in place? Or do you think that he thought that he could not win with this team? Did he believe that the players that you put on this roster, he could win with?
“I didn't get the sense that he didn't believe in the players.”
A year ago, you said that hiring Scott was entirely your decision. Was his hire really your decision?
“It was my decision. 100 percent it was my decision.”
Do you regret making this hire, given what happened yesterday?
“I don’t. We don't regret that. We believe in Scott. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances happen in life. There are only so many things that you can control, right. At the end of the day, we look at this as a challenging day, it was unexpected. It was surprising. It is hard to regret something that we can't control.”
Are you concerned that from the outsiders’ point-of-view, this team right now could be one of dysfunction?
“I don’t think so, no. We are confident with the way that we do things around here, how we run things and how we make decisions. We are confident that we will continue to do that. We will continue to make good decisions. It is on us now to start our coaching search and to find the next coach for our team.”
In Scott’s statement, he said, “I’m not the right coach to coach this team.” What do you think he meant by that, and you also said there was a separation agreement – is he going to be paid any buyout money?
“I’m not going to disclose the specifics on that. We do have a separation agreement in place. Relative to Scott’s comment, I’m not sure what he meant. However Scott came to that conclusion is sort of his recipe. But again, I do know that Scott is principled, he thinks things through and I’m sure he reflected on whatever he needed to reflect on, and he and his family made the decision that he made.”
Normally when a coach quits though, you wouldn’t give him any money if it’s his decision to quit, right?
“It doesn’t normally happen. Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not sure either. It probably is unusual, but again, I think it speaks to Scott and how principled he is. He’s an honest man.”
What do you tell potential coaches who are on the outside looking in and feel like something could be wrong in Orlando and their desire to maybe not come here?
“I would look at it opposite. I think we have a great situation here. We’ve got a great group of guys. We have a young team. We have guys who are willing to work. We have guys who want to be pushed, want to be coached. And we think the future is bright here, we really do. We won 10 more games than we did the year before – that’s not an insignificant improvement. Our goal is to make the playoffs. Our goal is to make the playoffs immediately, and that’s what we are geared to do. But I see our situation as incredibly attractive.”
Will you be seeking a head coach who has NBA head coaching experience, or are you going to be open to anyone who doesn’t have that level of experience?
“Not sure yet. We’re just going to try to find the best guy for the team, and whatever that looks like. So, we are going to have to go through that process obviously and spend some time outlining that criteria. I’m not sure yet.”
Is Scott free to negotiate with any team for this coming season?
“I am not going to release any specifics on that.”
Is it that Scott was not on board with the plan, for however long it might take? The sense that maybe he wanted things speeded up?
“No, I didn’t get that sense. We live in an impatient world, right? That’s just the reality of the nature of us. But I do think that Scott was on board with the plan and the vision. I do think he believed in the players, and I just think for whatever reason he made the decision that he did.”
He’s fine – he’s healthy isn’t he?
“As far as I know, yes. As far as I know, for sure.”
Evan Fournier tweeted out ‘what the blank’ – was any effort made to inform the players, or how did that go?
“Yes, we have spoken to all the players. I think there are two we left voicemails for. Again, it was surprising for all of us. It was surprising for me, for our staff, for our players. And it’s one of those things where there is a visceral effect to an occurrence like this.”
You were in this position last year in looking for a coach. How much of the same criteria are you going to be using as you look for a coach in this market, and how will the experience from last year having been GM for a little while help you with your selection process this time around?
“I think the criteria – we are developing that, but I think the nut and bolts will stay consistent. We want someone who is going to continue to push us forward, place an emphasis on the defensive end of the floor and figure out a way to continue to develop our players, and as we continue to add pieces, assemble a highly-competitive team, which quite honestly, we feel like we are not that far away from being competitive here for a long time.”
Have you contacted any candidates yet, and is Frank Vogel one of them?
“I have not contacted anyone yet.”
Coaches have changed their minds in the past – flip-flopped. You got a call yesterday or there was a meeting in Chicago. Did you talk to him today? Could maybe he change his mind? Could that happen?
“I don’t know. I feel like we’ve teased that out with Scott to make sure the decision he has made is one that he has a lot of conviction in. Again, you can never say for certain what will and will not happen, but as far as we know, he has resigned.”
But if he did change his mind, it’s only been a day, made a mistake in his mind, would you want him back?
“We would take everything in stride.”
What’s the status of the assistant coaches? Will they still be with the team, or are they going out with Scott?
“We are going to obviously address that. That has not been addressed yet, but we will address that immediately.”
Where did the disconnect between you and Scott Skiles occur? If there was a disconnect on the vision, can you specify on where that came about?
“I honestly don’t think there was a disconnect. I’d be curious to hear Scott’s take on that, but I think that throughout the course of the season, our dialogues was healthy, it was transparent, and I thought it was consistent. I think that’s a mischaracterization.”
Would any of the assistant coaches be considered for the head coaching job should they be interested, and as far as moving forward, how important is finding some stability after the last two seasons having some instability at that coaching spot?
“The first portion of your question, the answer is ‘yes.’ The second part, the answer is ‘yes.’ Stability is very important, and I think that’s something that often times has an intangible impact on a team. So, I certainly will be taking that into account.”
Did you detect any uneasiness, any unhappiness in any of your conversations with Scott throughout the year and at the end of the year that you’re still surprised about this? It doesn’t make any sense that he was perfectly happy with everything.
“How long have you been working in the NBA? So, would you say that it’s typical or atypical that an NBA head coach to get frustrated at times?”
But to this level?
“Scott is a competitor, and that’s what we love about Scott Skiles. So certainly throughout the course of the season, there would be times where he wasn’t happy with things. There were times when I wasn’t happy with things. There were times where he was ecstatic with things. Same for me. So it’s part of this typical cycle that is sort of the law of the land in the NBA and probably any professional sport throughout the course of a long season.”
But to leave years on a contract like that, it must have been really bad for him do you think?
“I think you have to ask Scott that question.”
Rob, you’ve been in the business for a long time. Do you ever remember a coach just quitting with no other job?
“Off the top of my head, no, I can’t remember that.”
MAGIC CEO ALEX MARTINS
How surprised by this are you?
I am disappointed more than anything. Scott is a friend, first and foremost. We have a long history together. I was very disappointed when I got the phone call yesterday.
Were you disappointed in him?
“Disappointed in his decision. We had a long talk, most of which I’m not going to disclose, but we had a long talk about his reasons why and I respect him for his decision. It’s a personal decision that he felt like he had to make and I respect him for it, but I’m disappointed. “
Were you blindsided by his decision?
“I think when anybody quits you’re blindsided. So, in a sense I would say ‘yes.’ I didn’t expect it in the least. We had great year-end meetings over the course of the last several weeks. There was great dialogue amongst our basketball staff, of which Scott was fully engaged in, so, in that respect I was incredibly surprised.”
Was ever part of your discussion with him ‘I stay if Rob goes?’
“Never, absolutley not. Scott Skiles never made a statement along those lines and never made any type of threat, whatsoever.”
Were the reasons basketball reasons?
“I would characterize them as personal reasons. It was his personal reasons that he felt like he couldn’t coach this team anymore and I respect his reasons. Again, disappointed by the fact that he came to those conclusions but I would characterize them as his own personal reasons.”
What do you tell the season ticket holders on a day like this especially since he was a fan favorite?
“He was a fan favorite and an Alex Martins favorite to begin with. So, I’m as disappointed as the fans are today that Scott made this decision. But having said that, the strength is in the organization and we talk all the time around here about no one individual is more important than the Orlando Magic organization. The organization is still here. Our ownership is still here, and I’ve said this to you before and in my opinion, one of the best ownerships in our league and in sports. And we’ll rebound from this. We are on an upward path in terms of winning on the court. We didn’t meet our expectation this year of getting to the playoffs, but we did improve by 10 games and so our expectation is that improvement is going to continue with a new leader next year. And our expectation is that we’re going to be back in the playoffs.”
Did Scott express to you at any point last year that he regretted taking the job, that he was unhappy with his decision?
“No, there was never any conversation like that. Again, as Rob pointed out during his press conference, I would characterize it as the normal ebb and flow of what you go through in a season as a basketball operation goes through winning and losing, and debating how we improve, and talking about the future, etc. So, I will tell you that Scott was fully engaged, in my opinion, throughout the year.”
Will this surprising experience alter the way you approach the search for the next coach?
“You learn from every situation, that’s certainly been my approach in my career. And this is obviously the first time that this has occurred to me during the course of my career. So, you learn from it and you protect against it as you move forward with further decisions.”
Could Scott change his mind, is that possible?
“I communicated with Scott again this morning just to make sure, just to make one last pass at whether this was truly the decision he wanted to make and he indicated very strongly to me it was his final decision and that he didn’t see himself changing from that.”
Are you buying out his contract?
“We have an agreement for separation….We don’t disclose the details of our agreements.”
Did he ever indicate to you that he couldn’t co-exist with Rob?
“I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, there was never any statement made by either one of them, quite frankly, that it was one or the other. There was never any threat directly or veiled made in any way by Scott or Rob during the course of the year. That just didn’t occur.”
Do you regret hiring Scott?
“I don’t regret hiring Scott. Scott brought us exactly what we asked him to bring in the year that he was here—accountability, structure, a focus on winning and a real work ethic. So, he did everything that we asked him to do. So, in that regard, no, I don’t regret the fact that we hired Scott.”
Given what the franchise has been through over the last four seasons now, how long is the leash for Rob Hennigan after what has transpired over that time and today?
“When these moments in time occur everybody is accountable. Rob is accountable to progress and success just like everybody else in this building and he’ll continue to be accountable. I’m accountable, our coaching staffs are accountable, our players are accountable. Everybody’s evaluated on a regular basis. And so in that regard, Rob is accountable to what has happened here and he’s accountable to what happens in the future.”
How pivotal of an off-season is this?
“Well, prior to today, I think I’ve said to you that this is a big off-season for us. We need to improve. We need to add some veteran leadership to this ball club that we currently don’t have, to bring some leadership in the locker room from a veteran standpoint that we could use to help our younger guys exponentially grow and get back to the playoffs, somebody that’s been there before. We also need a leader who can lead them on the bench and the coach to do that. So, it is a big summer, we said that before today and what’s happened today hasn’t changed that.”
Do you prioritize NBA head coaching experience given the veteran flavor you said this roster needs?
“We’ll develop the criteria, as Rob said, and there’s a number of things that are going to be important and some NBA coaching experience may be on that list. But we’re going to find the right coach for this team, that can bring stability and will be here to be able to coach these guys back to the playoffs.”
Do you think this will affect attracting free agents?
“I personally don’t think so. Everything I’ve read all day long has said that this now becomes one of the most attractive jobs in the league and I believe that, and most of the so called experts around the league have said we have a collection of some of the best young talent in the league that anyone that is available to coach would want to coach and I believe that as well. So, I think it’s a very attractive job, working for a great ownership, with an organization that has a history of winning, not most recently, but we have a great history of winning and I think that makes it very attractive to a potential head coach, particularly in light of the players that we have.”
What do you say to those fans about returning to winning ways who are getting impatient on waiting?
“I would say that the indicators from this past season would say that the fans are continuing to be excited about what we’re building. The television ratings are up 63 percent over a year ago, that was second highest in the NBA in terms of improvement. Our average attendance was up almost 1,000 per game. We were number one in the league in group ticket sales. We were number two in the league in single game sales. All of those are strong indicators that our fans are excited about this team and they’re continuing to come and watch and follow, etc. So, I think the excitement is there, but we’ve got to get back to the playoffs. I’m not naïve about that, and we know we’ve got to do it right away.”