It’s no secret the Orlando Magic have struggled this season.
After starting the season blazing hot, the Magic quickly cooled off, and the hopes of ending their six-year playoff drought quickly vanished. With their playoff hopes dashed yet again, and another high lottery selection on the horizon, many questions have moved to the forefront for the lowly Magic.
One of the most prominent is the future of coach Frank Vogel.
Vogel, who was hired before last season, has failed to instill the defense first mindset that his Indiana Pacer teams were known for. Moreover, the team has seen little improvement as a cohesive unit throughout the year, and if there isn’t connection in year-two, clearly there’s a message being missed somewhere along the line.
The team’s struggles this season can’t all be traced back to Vogel, however. Injuries have ridiculed the team, with only one player, Bismack Biyombo, having appeared in every game this season. The team’s most important players — Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and rookie Jonathon Isaac — have all missed extended periods of time throughout the season.
Due to the injuries, Vogel has had to turn to some, at times, questionable lineups and rotations, which has undoubtedly hurt the teams ability to grow as an entire unit. Throughout the last few weeks, the Vogel has had to turn to the likes of Jamel Artis and Rodney Purvis, who spent much of the season in Lakeland with the Magic’s NBA G-League affiliate, for heavy minutes on the wing.
Injuries aside, the the franchise’s recent history with coaches must be looked at as well in regards to making a decision about Vogel’s future.
Since their last trip to the playoffs during the 2011/12 season, the Magic have gone through four head coaches, including three in the span of a season and a half. Only a handful of teams, headlined by the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, have been through more coaches over that time. That lack of continuity from their head man has undoubtedly stunted the growth of some players on the roster, and held them back.
Add in the bad habits that players have developed from losing on a seemingly nightly basis, and the issues might be deeper than many look at.
At some point the front office has to see that it’s the players, and not the coaches and make wholesale changes to the roster. The likes of Vucevic, Fournier and Gordon have been through all these coaching changes, and have not been able to help the team take that next step forward. There are times throughout games you see them continue to fall into those habits developed with the former coaches that have come and gone.
If the franchise is ever going to move forward, and take steps towards making the playoffs, they must move on from, at least some of, the players who have been a focal point throughout their elongated struggles.
You can only change the coach so many times before you have to realize it’s the players, and the Magic should be at that point now.
While Vogel wasn’t hand selected by the Magic front office of John Hammond and Jeff Weltman, his track record, and the need for consistency, should be enough for the new regime to hold onto him. Add in the likelihood that it would be hard for the Magic to find a much better option than Vogel, and the decision to hold onto him should be a no-brainer.
The rumors will continue to swirl around Vogel’s future as the season winds down, and we enter the coaching carousel. Should the Magic decide to move on from Vogel, their list could include former swingman Jerry Stackhouse.
If the Magic are smart, they’ll hang onto Vogel, and turn over the roster that desperately needs it, especially to get on the right track.