Last week, while still in the midst of the Dwightmare, the Orlando Magic concluded their coaching search. The road ended with the hire of the two year experience assistant coach Jacque Vaughn of the San Antonio Spurs. Vaughn will be the tenth head coach in what has been a relatively short history for the Orlando Magic franchise.
If you’re a hoophead, you remember that Vaughn played in Orlando for one season under Doc Rivers. He was a journeyman back-up point guard throughout his career in the NBA. He won a championship playing for the San Antonio Spurs in 06-07 when they swept LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals.
Vaughn’s hire was something that no one had really considered, especially at the ripe age of 37, would happen. He is a recent NBA retire and only has two years of coaching experience under Gregg Poppovich’s tutelage. Its not often that you see a combination of a guy who is so young and just recently retired as a player jump into a head coaching job so soon. We’ve seen weirder, but the question here is what warranted the Magic to make such an unorthodox choice?
The Magic apparently believe that Vaughn has what they are looking for as a coach. He said that he’s a huge believer in player development and that’s what his main focus will be. My gripe is that the Magic don’t have a lot of players that need developing. Its not like they’re a young team with plenty of young pieces to work with. I think that speaks more about the status of Dwight Howard than anything else. The Magic will be looking to get back plenty of young pieces from whoever they choose to deal with, and Vaughn says that he’ll be able to work with young guys.
Perfect fit, right? But hold on, what makes people believe that Vaughn will truly be able to do this? He’s never been a head coach before, only an assistant. For two years at that. What qualifies him to be able to do what he says he’s going to do?
I think this quality took root in his playing days. Vaughn has played for some of the greatest coaches to ever coach the game. He played his college ball at Kansas under Roy Williams who is a championship caliber coach and has won on that level before. He started his career out as a back up point guard in Utah with Jerry Sloan. Toward the end of his tenure there he started to play more which shows how much he started to understand the game. He played for Doc Rivers for a year in Orlando before. He then played for Lawrence Frank in New Jersey and was apart of some pretty good New Jersey teams. He finished his career out by playing for one of the best coaches the game has ever seen in Pop as well.
I don’t think its a matter of has he ever seen good coaching, but its more of will the good coaching that he’s seen translate to the NBA. Rob Henningan, the new Magic GM, seems to trust that Vaughn does. He knows Vaughn from his playing days with San Antonio as Hennigan was in their front office when they won the championship over the Cavaliers.
Also, Vaughn was apart of the coaching staff that developed young players into key pieces that helped San Antonio have the best record in the Western Conference for two years in a row. Players like Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Tiago Splitter were aided by his coaching.
Vaughn understands what the players need to move along in their career. With his perspective as a player, it should come in handy when communicating and developing some of the young players that the Magic will receive.
I think that Vaughn was a good hire for Orlando, but the book is still open. Whether or not he can do it remains to be seen, but he needs to be put in the position to succeed first. All of this Dwight Howard mess must be settled first and foremost. Then we’ll see if Vaughn is the real deal or not.