Scott Skiles delivered a shocking blow to the Orlando Magic and the NBA community on Thursday afternoon, making it known that he would officially be stepping down as the team’s head coach. It was abrupt and out of nowhere, unless of course you take a closer look at how Skiles operated in his first year with the team.
Scott Skiles has resigned as the Orlando Magic’s coach.
— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) May 12, 2016
Here is what Skiles had to say in a statement released on Thursday:
“After much thought and careful consideration, I and I alone, have come to the conclusion that I am not the right head coach for this team. Therefore, effective immediately, I resign my position as head coach of the Orlando Magic. I realize this type of decision can cause much speculation. The reality though is in the first sentence. It is simple and true. Any other rumors are pure conjecture.”
It’s fairly honest and believable, but why did Skiles come to the conclusion that he’s not the right guy? Some speculation has pointed out his disinterest in being tied to Elfrid Payton as his starting point guard, while management has refused to budge. Payton is the guy they want to groom to be the franchise point guard and with Skiles not buying in, he decided to let someone else run the show.
Skiles dips out of a four-year deal and after a reasonably successful 35-47 2015-16 season, it’s arguable that Orlando takes a step backward. Unless, of course, they get the right coach to come in to replace Skiles. The one thing Skiles did right – at least for stretches – is get Orlando to play their best ball on their home floor and also defend (albeit inconsistently) at a fairly high level. They’re a young team, but with the right leader, could still be very much on the rise.
Here are nine coaching options that could make sense for Orlando as they try to improve even more going into next season:
This one is out of sheer respect. Ewing has been working his tail off to get a serious shot as a head coach for years and he actually played for Orlando and coached as an assistant with them. They could dip into their own pond here and give him a shot, even if it’s just as a stop gap before their next big hire. Most fans knew Skiles wasn’t the long-term answer, either, so this could be a nice move to get Ewing’s feet wet and also see if he can instill the same qualities Skiles provided – defense, team ball and accountability.
The reviews on Ewing have been mixed, with some thinking he’s been long overdue to land a job, and others thinking he just isn’t an NBA head coach. A negative perception against former big men (Ewing was a center) could be working against him, as former pro players that coach tend to be point guards or wing players. It’s an unfortunate stereotype, but it’s possible many teams feel there is some validity to it. If so, that could be the key reason why Ewing isn’t being seriously considered for big jobs. Orlando could be a good fit, though, and it’d be mildly surprising if he didn’t at least get an interview.
Shaw had a brief tenure with the Denver Nuggets after years of playing and assistant coaching with the Los Angeles Lakers. Look at as a bright NBA mind, Shaw has issues with player chemistry and rotations in his days with Denver, and seemed to lose the locker room early on. His shaky rotations are one reason why, but it’s odd to hear about Shaw not meshing with players, especially considering he was regarded as a “player’s coach”. Still, he’s young, has experience and by all accounts know what he’s doing. It didn’t work out in Denver, but he’s been high on numerous team’s lists ever since, regardless.
Jackson could give Orlando a more veteran presence and he certainly did a decent enough job in Golden State. After all, he did pave the way for them defensively, and it wasn’t until Steve Kerr loosened them up the year after he got fired that the Warriors quickly developed into an elite team. Much like Skiles, Jackson preaches accountability and defense, which is a good culture (especially since its been ingrained already) for the current Orlando team.
Woodson has been known as a relatively bland NBA coach, but he’s still been rather successful. He helped get the Atlanta Hawks to the playoffs in three straight seasons before moving on to coach the Knicks, who he helped reach the playoffs in his first two years. He’s been with the Clippers the last two years as a helpful assistant and could be working his way back to a head coaching position. Woodson offers elite experience as a player and coach and preaches stifling defense, so he wouldn’t be a sharp change from Skiles and would keep a tight foundation in order.
This is the first deviation from Skiles Orlando may consider, as Hornacek aims for team offense and total effort, but tries to give his players some wiggle room. He coached up some very competitive Phoenix squads in his first two seasons as a head coach, but injuries and an extremely young roster burned him out and lost him his job this past season. With Orlando’s talent, he could help the offense raise their level of play and be more consistent, while also getting the Magic to play together.
McHale could off-set the “no tall coach” theory, as he was a former big man in the league and has found nominal success as another “player’s coach” type. Trouble is, he lost the Rockets to start this past season, even after doing all he could to get them to the Western Conference Finals a year ago. He’s a “what you see is what you get” coach, but he teaches both sides of the ball and stresses maximum effort. The only issue is Houston stopped listening, so it’s worth wondering precisely why.
D’Antoni has been biding his time lately, looking for the perfect opportunity to get back into the league as a head coach. His last main job was a failed run with the Los Angeles Lakers, largely thanks to a devastating Kobe Bryant injury and a less than 100% Dwight Howard. D’Antoni brings an exciting brand of euro ball to the table, constantly preaching movement, spacing and shooting in his offense. He could work wonders with Elfrid Payton at the point and his offense could flow well with Orlando’s versatile talent. Defense, of course, has always been an issue.
Vogel was recently fired by the Indiana Pacers despite reaching the playoffs in five of six seasons, and there isn’t much bad to be said about him. His coaching style can come off as bland at times and he won’t produce an elite offense, but he knows team chemistry and certainly can get his teams to play top shelf defense. He’s got good experience and knows how to win, which could make him a tough sell for a team still trying to work back to the playoffs for the first time since Dwight Howard jumped ship. The Grizzlies are probably a better bet to land Vogel, but he’d be a good hire and in turn an arguable upgrade over the departing Skiles.
Blatt remains the top head coach out on the open market. He has had a ton of success overseas and in his first year on the job, he got the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2015 NBA Finals. They even made it to six games and at one point had the series tied, 2-2. Blatt knows team basketball, can coach up an offense and also can get his teams to come together to defend at a high level. Most of all, he knows how to adjust and motivate on the fly, and he’s a flat-out winner. He had the Cavs on pace to be just as good this year, and was canned out of nowhere. He’s likely waiting for the perfect job offer, and sadly Orlando may not be it. Then again, they have a very young and talented group, so if they target him, he could see the upside in growing with a fresh unit.
The good news is there are plenty of coaching options available yet, and there are even more assistant and first-year coach options we’re not touching on. Orlando may act quickly within the next week or so, just because the Skiles resignation was such a shock and in about a month the draft and then summer league will be here. It’s anyone’s guess who the next coach of the Orlando Magic will be, but don’t be shocked if it’s someone on our list. Our early pick is Blatt, should the Knicks bypass him in their coaching search.