ORLANDO, Fla. – Scott Skiles surprisingly resigned as coach of the Orlando Magic after just one season and team executives insist they never saw it coming.
The Magic were busy Thursday trying to play spin control while also trying to make sense of the seemingly sudden decision by Skiles. He left after a sometimes turbulent season that ended on a positive note. The Magic improved by 10 wins under Skiles, finishing 35-47 but again missing the playoffs.
“This is certainly a challenging day for us, an unexpected day,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said. “I think that when Scott and I first met a year ago we had some great dialogue. We talked about basketball philosophy, basketball character and the things we look for in players. Quite honestly that dialogue continued throughout the course of the season. So with the news we received from Scott (on Wednesday), we were very surprised by it, took as aback a little bit.”
Skiles, a 14-year veteran coach and former Magic player, was not available for comment Thursday but did issue a statement earlier in the day.
“After much thought and careful consideration, I and I alone, have come to the conclusion that I am not the right head coach for this team,” Skiles said. “Therefore, effective immediately, I resign my position as head coach of the Orlando Magic. I realize this type of decision can cause much speculation. The reality though is in the first sentence. It is simple and true. Any other rumors are pure conjecture.”
Magic CEO Alex Martins dismissed the notion that Skiles’ decision was the result of clashes with Hennigan or that the coach and GM had philosophical differences when it came to personnel and the direction of the team.
Skiles was not present while most of the front office staff was in Chicago on Wednesday interviewing potential draft prospects for next month’s NBA draft.
Martins and Hennigan both said Scott resigning had nothing do with the coach’s relationship with the general manager.
“There was never any statement made by either one of them quite frankly that it was one or the other,” Martins said. “There was never any threat directly, or made in any way, by Scott or Rob during the course of the year. That just didn’t occur.”
Hennigan said the two sometimes disagreed on basketball issues but it wasn’t anything out of the normal.
“We had good dialogue throughout the course of the season and good dialogue means lots of different things,” Hennigan said. “It means disagreements, arguments, debates and jokes. We certainly had all of that.”
Hennigan declined to say why Skiles told him he was resigning. Both the GM and Martins also declined to give details on Skiles’ contract situation.
Skiles, 52, was under contract with the team through 2017-18 and the team had an option for 2018-19. They only offered that a separation plan is in place, not indicating whether the team would buy out Skiles’ remaining years or if the coach is simply walking away from a deal that still has millions on the table.
His departure makes Orlando the fourth team with a current coaching opening in the NBA, joining vacancies in Indiana, Memphis and Houston. It also becomes the 233rd coaching change around the league since Gregg Popovich took over as coach of the San Antonio Spurs in December 1996.
Martins said the focus is now on finding Skiles replacement. With a promising young team and cap room to add veterans, he expects the Magic to be an attractive job for any available coach.
It’s likely they will favor a coach who plays an up-tempo style of offense and has strong defensive principles, much like Skiles.
“Certainly the way we played this year was an improvement and played to the strength of our players,” Martins said. “We will talk to coaching candidates about that and their style of play. We would look to continue that positive momentum in the way we are playing.”
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