BY TIM REYNOLDS
Frank Vogel was brought to Orlando two years ago with hopes he could get the Magic back to the playoffs, and stop the spinning of the revolving door to their coaches’ office.
Neither of those things happened.
Vogel was fired by the Magic on Thursday about 10 hours after the team wrapped up a 25-57 season, its sixth consecutive losing year. Vogel, who had one year left on his contract, went 54-110 in his two years with Orlando.
The Magic haven’t been to the playoffs since Stan Van Gundy’s final season with the team in 2012. Vogel, who had some successful years coaching the Indiana Pacers before going to Orlando, simply didn’t have the roster to change that.
“We would like to thank Frank for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” Magic basketball operations president Jeff Weltman said. “We appreciate the sacrifices he made as head coach and certainly wish him and his family well going forward.”
Vogel told his players after Wednesday’s season-ending win over playoff-bound Washington he was planning to meet with them Thursday. The team had different ideas.
Instead, the team’s first order of business on Day One of the offseason was to dismiss the coach.
Clearly, another season of struggle was not all Vogel’s fault. The Magic used 27 starting lineups this season, none of them for more than 11 games, 18 of them for three games or less. There was no continuity to the lineup, and only three players appeared in 70 games. In all, injuries and illness robbed the Magic of 227 player games this season — thwarting some key parts of Vogel’s plan.
Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic were the team’s three leading scorers; they combined to miss 74 games, and Gordon will now become a restricted free agent. Bismack Biyombo was the only Magic player to appear in all 82 games, and most of those were as a reserve. And while the season ended with a win, the irony is that the victory hurt Orlando’s draft-lottery chances.
Vogel’s status has been the source of some speculation for weeks. Weltman is part of a new front-office regime in Orlando, and it’s expected that the big changes won’t be limited to who’s coaching the team next season.
“It comes with the territory,” Vucevic told the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday before the season finale. “When a team struggles, obviously the front office is going to look at what’s been working, what hasn’t, what can be done for the team to be improved. So there’s a lot of possibilities. I try not to think about it too much. I try to focus on what you can control, which is on the basketball court.”
The firing came even though Vogel saw signs the team was headed in the right direction. He spoke often about the culture he thought the Magic were building, and after the finale indicated he was excited to add another lottery pick to a team that he insisted had promise.
“They made the best of a tough situation by playing with great effort, positive energy, enthusiasm, all throughout a difficult season,” Vogel said.
The next step in Orlando will now be someone else’s task.
Vogel was the second coach fired Thursday within hours of the end of the regular season. The New York Knicks dismissed Jeff Hornacek earlier in the day.
There’s no shortage of candidates. Jerry Stackhouse is likely to get at least a real chance at an NBA job this offseason, after two successful years leading Toronto’s G League affiliate. And he and Weltman have history; Weltman came to the Magic as president 11 months ago after serving as the No. 2 in command of basketball operations under Masai Ujiri with the Raptors.
This will be the Magic’s fifth coach in just more than three years. The replacement for Van Gundy was Jacque Vaughn, who was fired in February 2015. Vaughn was followed by interim coach James Borrego (now a San Antonio assistant), then Scott Skiles (who lasted one season), then Vogel.
The Magic weren’t good enough to win under any of them. The team’s best record since Van Gundy left was 35-47 in 2015-16.
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