Phil Jackson-to-Orlando Magic Plan Too Risky, Not Worthwhile

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Orlando Magic are reportedly still in the running to secure the services of Phil Jackson, one of the NBA's true legends. The Hall-of-Famer won 11 titles as a coach and two more as a player and commands respect throughout the league even in retirement, having left the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010. And Sam Vincent, who played under Jackson with the Chicago Bulls, is independently trying to broker a deal to bring Jackson to the Magic's front office in a sort of consulting role. The prospect of having Jackson on Orlando's payroll, even if he'd be in town just one week per month, has some fans salivating, while word that team ownership isn't sold on Vincent's plan has those same fans irate. How could the Magic balk at the chance to employ such a legendary figure?

It may be hard to hear, but Jackson's very presence wouldn't change some fundamental truths surrounding the team, which is why bringing him aboard--at the steep cost of giving Jackson a stake in ownership, plus a salary that could reach eight figures--is no guarantee of success.

Put simply, Orlando has problems not even Jackson can solve. The Magic are capped out, lack appealing trade assets, and clearly need several roster upgrades in order to return to championship contention. Jackson can't change the league's cap rules, nor can he dupe rival GMs into making unbalanced trades in the Magic's favor. What precisely, apart from name recognition, can Jackson offer Orlando that it couldn't get from other, far less expensive GM candidates?

Were Jackson more experienced in front-office work, I might understand the appeal of Vincent's proposal more. But Jackson's value is as a head coach, and under Vincent's arrangement, it'd be Brian Shaw roaming the sidelines at Amway Center. The Magic don't need Vincent to deliver Jackson in order to hire Shaw. And the only other vacant head-coaching job belongs to the Charlotte Bobcats, fresh off finishing with the worst single-season winning percentage in league history, meaning Orlando doesn't have much competition when it comes to attracting top coaching candidates.

The price for landing Jackson is far too steep for Orlando to seriously consider. In addition to his ownership stake and high salary, Orlando would also have to hire Scottie Pippen as Shaw's lead assistant, along with former Jackson aides Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons. Vincent would earn a front-office job as a sort of finder's fee for putting the deal together. And all that comes on top of having to hire a day-to-day front-office type to handle the salary cap.

When they have cap space, the Magic have no trouble luring free agents, given Orlando's climate and Florida's friendly tax code, so it's not as though Jackson could help significantly from a recruiting standpoint. And no star player is going to forego millions of dollars over the life of a contract because Jackson wined-and-dined him.

The bottom line is that hiring Jackson, under the terms Vincent has reportedly presented, is much too much to give up for an iffy return. Magic CEO Alex Martins and the rest of Orlando ownership is right to be skeptical of Vincent's plan, and should continue to search elsewhere for front-office leadership.

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