April 12, 2018 (AP)(STL.News) —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.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for Frank Vogel as a coach and a person,” said Magic basketball operations president Jeff Weltman, who met with Vogel to deliver the news. “I know he’ll be a head coach again shortly.”
Weltman didn’t give a timetable for finding a new coach.
“We just have to find that right guy,” he said.
Clearly, another season of struggle was not all Vogel’s fault. The Magic used 27 starting lineups this season, none for more than 11 games, 18 for three games or fewer. 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 key parts of Vogel’s plan.
“It was very hard to evaluate it and I’m not sure we were able to get the complete look that we wanted to,” Weltman said. “But that’s sports. … I wish we were blessed with more health this season, but that’s not the way it panned out.”
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 next season won’t be limited to the coach.
“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, with the New York Knicks dismissing Jeff Hornacek.
The Magic will have no shortage of coaching 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, and no NBA team has won fewer games over the past six seasons than the Magic.
“We’re not good enough,” Weltman said. “We have a lot of areas to improve upon.”