Orlando hopes new head coach Scott Skiles can return some of the magic he brought to the team when he was player for the franchise.
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By Mike Ferguson
The Orlando Magic have again hired one of the franchise’s former point guards to lead the team, but this time, Orlando went with one with previous head coaching experience. On Friday, Scott Skiles was introduced as the team’s 12th head coach.
An original member of the Orlando Magic, Skiles averaged nearly 13 points and over 7 assists during the franchise’s first five seasons and helped the team make their first playoff appearance during the 1993-94 campaign where it would be swept by the Indiana Pacers.
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The highlight of Skiles’ Magic career was without a doubt his NBA-record 30 assists against the Denver Nuggets in late December of 1990. Skiles was known for his blue collar style as a player and even once fought teammate Shaquille O’Neal, who stood a foot taller than Skiles and outweighed him by over 100 pounds.
As a head coach, Skiles has compiled a 443-433 record in 13 seasons and has appeared in the playoffs six times. Skiles has coached the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks. His best finish was the 2006-07 campaign with Chicago as the Bulls went 49-33.
Despite a solid young nucleus, the Magic ranked in the bottom ten in the NBA in scoring, rebounding, assists and points allowed this past season. Defense was by far the team’s sorest spot as Orlando at one point, allowed at least 100 points in 14 straight games.
Since Dwight Howard was traded following the 2011-12 season, the Magic have failed to win more than 25 games in any season. Orlando parted ways with coach Jacque Vaughn, another former Orlando guard, 52 games into last season after just a 15-37 start.
Skiles has had success in turning around struggling franchises. In his first full season with Chicago, Skiles took a team that finished with just 23 wins the previous year and more than doubled their win total.
In the two years prior to his arrival in Milwaukee, the Bucks were a combined 54-110. In Skiles’ second season with the team, Milwaukee finished 46-36 and pushed the Atlanta Hawks to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
The Magic are hopeful that Skiles can bring similar results to the City Beautiful. Orlando has cash to spend this offseason and will pick fifth in next month’s draft.
Based on what was done last season by teams like Milwaukee and Boston, it is possible to turn things around very quickly in an Eastern Conference where only five of this year’s eight playoff teams finished with a winning record.
General manager Rob Hennigan was done a nice job of putting building blocks in place on the Orlando roster, but when it comes to picking coaches, he’s 0-for-1 so far. If Skiles is unable to turn the Magic around in a timely manner, Hennigan likely won’t be around to pick the next one.