The Orlando Magic continued the youth movement within their management today by naming 37-year-old Jacque Vaughn as their new head coach, just one month after naming 30-year-old Rob Hennigan as their new general manager. Vaughn will replace a fired Stan Van Gundy, who compiled a respectable 259-135 regular season record for the Magic, as well as a 31-28 playoff record during his five seasons in Orlando.
Despite his franchise-best record for a Magic head coach, Van Gundy did not seem to meet the standards of Orlando’s All-Star center Dwight Howard. Nevertheless long after the firing of Van Gundy, the Dwight Howard trade saga rages on as Howard continues his demands to be traded, partially due to the lack of talent around him in Orlando, and largely due to his desire to play in a bigger market.
To some NBA fans, the name Jacque Vaughn may bring back recent memories of a player rather than a coach. This is because Vaughn did not retire from playing until after the 2008-2009 NBA season. He played his final three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, and won an NBA Championship with them in 2007. He has spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach for the Spurs under Gregg Popovich, who highly recommended Vaughn’s coaching talents to Hennigan. Both Hennigan and Vaughn got their starts in NBA management within the Spurs’ organization, and apparently Popovich’s praises sold the Magic’s new GM enough to hire Vaughn over a couple of more qualified prospective coaches.
"We are confident that his diligence, attention to detail and communication style will help establish the bedrock of our culture moving forward. His commitment and passion to building a sustainable program will help steer our organization for years to come."
Despite having only been coaching for two years, and being just four years older than his starting small forward Hedo Turkoglu, Vaughn has played and coached under some very well-respected coaches such as Popovich, Jerry Sloan, Doc Rivers, and Byron Scott. He has been a part of various championship environments, but right now only Popovich and players on the Spurs really know whether or not those experiences translate well into effective coaching. The decision to name Vaughn head coach has already drawn some skepticism, and rightfully so since he has a lot to prove before he will be as respected as other head and even assistant coaches.
Regardless of this coaching change, Howard still captivates the NBA world every time he declares a new team worthy to be on his wish-list. That list had originally only included Brooklyn, but later widened to also include Los Angeles and Dallas. As a result this coaching change will be overanalyzed through its impact on Howard, rather than its impact on the rest of the franchise. Everyone will want to know whether this new coach will make Howard want to stay in Orlando, but ultimately without a star point guard, he will still demand to be traded.
Hopefully Orlando can soon move Howard for some young talent and move on with their future, so that their team can focus on more important things than just where one of their fifteen players would rather be playing. Meanwhile, Vaughn will be out to prove that he is ready to handle NBA head coaching responsibilities, while Hennigan’s first big move as Orlando’s GM will be under the microscope as the Magic prepare to enter a rebuilding process in their life-after-Howard. Trading Howard so that they can sharpen their collective focus and re-instill team chemistry in Orlando will be the next step to not just putting together a team that can win, but one that can do so while both respecting and performing under their new head coach.