Zach McCann probably isn't a stranger to most of you, having founded Orlando Magic Daily not so long ago. Now he's the newest member of the Orlando Magic beat, covering the team for the Orlando Sentinel. I interviewed Zach via email to discuss his new gig, the Magic, and a few other topics.
Ben Q. Rock: Let's start with some basic information, Zach. About how old are you, and how long have you been a journalist?
Zach McCann: I’m 22 and I’ve been working at the Sentinel for a little more than five years now.
BQR: This position isn't your first go-round with the Sentinel. What were your duties before?
ZM: Did a little bit of everything. I covered high schools, UCF, the Orlando Predators and about every other niche sport you can think of, among other behind-the-scenes duties (copy editing, laying out pages, taking high school calls, compiling roundups… this is going to be one hell of an interesting interview for your readers). I’ve also freelanced for publications all over the country.
BQR: So how did this job come about?
ZM: The stars sort of aligned. Tania Ganguli left to cover the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Jacksonville Times-Union, and the Sentinel editors decided to promote me. I’m excited to validate their decision
BQR: What are you hoping to accomplish in this position?
ZM: In a nutshell, I’d like to find ways to tell the story of the Orlando Magic in non-traditional ways, using the Internet to complement the reporting and commentary already in place at the Sentinel. Plus, I’d like to further integrate the Sentinel’s Magic coverage with the blogosphere and establish a unique voice on the Magic that differs from what else you’ll read at the Sentinel
BQR: I get the impression that much of your work will appear online, but can we expect to read your byline in the morning paper as well?
ZM: Not as much as you’ll see Brian Schmitz and Josh Robbins, I don’t think. But I’ll be in there. My parents will still have stuff to put up on their fridge, I hope. Overall, though, my job is focused around the Internet
BQR: Let's shift more toward the Magic. What's your history with them? Have you always been a fan?
ZM: I grew up in Central Florida, and I’ve been a Magic fan since my NBA fanhood began. I started during the golden Shaq years, and went through the natural progression of a Magic fan: Loved Shaq, hated Shaq, loved Penny, grew tired of Penny, fell in love with the Heart and Hustle team, got excited for Tim Duncan and Grant Hill, still was excited for T-Mac and Hill, loved T-Mac, grew frustrated with Hill and his ankle, berated management for poor draft picks, tired of T-Mac and his antics, pretended to like players that came from Houston in exchange for T-Mac (didn’t really though), wished horrible things on Fran Vazquez, lost all hope as a Magic fan, saw Dwight Howard play in his first game, restored hope, figured Magic would win title within five years, and the rest is history
BQR: You're one of the first Magic bloggers, having gotten Orlando Magic Daily off the ground before leaving. What prompted you to start OMD, and why'd you have to step aside?
ZM: I started OMD because ESPN’s TrueHoop network didn’t have an Orlando Magic blog, and I saw an opening. OMD is my baby; I loved working on it, it got me access to the Magic and probably got me this job. But early last season I decided I was committing too much time to something that wasn’t my real job, and forced myself to focus more of my time on my living
BQR: The Magic, as we know, are fairly progressive with regard to their attitude toward social media and newer forms of journalism. We've benefited from that attitude. Not every team is so enlightened. Can you comment a bit on that front?
ZM: The Magic have been great. They’ve always worked well with me and don’t look down on or discriminate against people involved with new or unfamiliar media outlets. Look, the Magic are one of only two teams with a million Twitter followers (the other being L.A.), their star (Dwight Howard) is one of the most advanced social media users in the NBA, and they credential all credible members of the NBA blogosphere. Really, other organizations (and other sports) should take note. What bad has happened with the Magic opening their doors to sites such as Third Quarter Collapse and Howard the Dunk? If an independent blog has a major audience — oftentimes bigger than some traditional outlets — then what’s the point of shutting them out of coverage? So those sites can speculate more? Obviously a line has to be drawn on who to accept, but it’s 2010 and all sports teams need to embrace the unavoidable change in media rather than running from it. I give the Magic kudos on that. I also enjoy saying kudos
BQR: What are you expecting from the Magic this year? It was a quiet summer for them, especially relative to the additions the other Eastern powers made.
ZM: The Magic will be right there. Their big offseason was last year, making this offseason more about tinkering. They’re still a top-tier team on both offense and defense. Taking down Miami or Boston will be a tough task, but this Magic team can do it
BQR: Where do you stand on the backup power forward debate? Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass each have their own strengths. Or should one of them start, and shift Rashard Lewis to small forward?
ZM: I’m a fan of Lewis at power forward. Always have been. It’s a shame both Anderson and Bass can’t play heavy minutes, but that’s the reality at this point. There will undoubtedly be unhappiness from whoever’s the odd man out, and history tells us the odd man out will be Bass — but we’re not even to training camp yet, so it’s difficult to make personnel predictions
BQR: How badly, if at all, will the Magic miss Matt Barnes this year? Or will Quentin Richardson prove more effective than Barnes was last year?
ZM: On paper, I don’t think the Magic will miss a beat at this spot. Q is a better shooter than Barnes, and their defense is comparable. But here’s where they’ll miss Barnes, and I realize this is a completely unoriginal and soon-to-be tired point: attitude. Barnes, of course, gave the Magic an edge they lacked throughout the Dwight Howard era. I realize Barnes’ instigating isn’t essential to a successful team, but it certainly gave last year’s Magic team a new dimension
BQR: I know it's far too early to ask a question like this, but it's as good a note as any on which to end this exchange: who's your NBA Finals pick, whom do they defeat, and in how many games?
ZM: If I’m picking now, I’m going with the Miami Heat over the L.A. Lakers. Lame, I know. Sorry.
Thanks again to Zach for taking the time to answer these questions. You can read his work at the Sentinel's Magic BasketBlog and follow him on Twitter.