A new era in Orlando Magic history is about to begin.
Jamahl Mosley takes over as head coach after the franchise made two playoff appearances in three years under Steve Clifford. Big things aren’t expected from Mosley in his first season, but in Orlando history, some coaches have exceeded expectations.
In what will be a two-part series, we’ll be looking back on the five best debuts by Magic coaches and the five worst in terms of wins and losses. Interim head coaches will not be included.
Here’s a look at the Orlando coaches who did the best in their first seasons:
T-4. Doc Rivers
Overview: The Orlando Magic didn’t make the playoffs in Doc Rivers’ first season as head coach, but his “Heart and Hustle” team did enough to earn Rivers the honor of NBA Coach of the Year. The Magic franchise had just parted with the likes of Anfernee Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Horace Grant and Gerald Wilkins. Darrell Armstrong, Ron Mercer and Ben Wallace headlined a young roster that managed to stay in the playoff hunt until final week of the season.
T-4. Chuck Daly
Overview: In 13 full seasons as an NBA head coach, Chuck Daly never had a losing record. The only time he finished .500 was in his first season with the Orlando Magic. Anfernee Hardaway missed 63 games for Orlando and center Rony Seiklay was traded midway through the season, but Orlando still stayed in the playoff hunt until the final weeks of the season. It marked the sixth straight season that the Magic finished at least .500.
3. Steve Clifford
Record: 42-40, lost to Toronto Raptors 4-1 in Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Overview: When Steve Clifford arrived in Orlando, the Magic had missed the playoffs in six straight seasons. In Clifford’s first year, the Magic won 22 of their final 31 games to win the Southeast Division and end the drought. All-Star center Nikola Vucevic averaged nearly 21 points and 12 rebounds per game to pace the Magic. Orlando stayed hot by winning Game 1 of the first round against Toronto on a late three-pointer by D.J. Augustin, but lost the final four games of the series to the eventual world champions.
2. Brian Hill
Record: 50-32, lost to Indiana Pacers 3-0 in Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Overview: The 1993-94 season was full of firsts for the Orlando Magic. In Brian Hill’s first season, Orlando won a then franchise record 50 games and reached the NBA Playoffs for the first time. With a second-year center in Shaquille O’Neal and a rookie guard named Anfernee Hardaway, it was clear that the Magic were a franchise on the rise.
1. Stan Van Gundy
Record: 52-30, beat Toronto Raptors 4-1 in Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, lost to Detroit Pistons 4-1 in Eastern Conference Semifinals
Overview: In Stan Van Gundy’s first offseason, the Magic added Rashard Lewis to a young core that included Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. The result was Orlando winning its first playoff series in 11 years as the Magic captured the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and knocked off the Toronto Raptors in five games. The Magic didn’t get any further, but the 52 wins was the third-most in franchise history at the time.