Orlando Magic: Larry Bird Or Frank Vogel?

Larry Bird has stepped down from his role as team president of the Indiana Pacers. If he was interested, should the Orlando Magic look to bring him on board?

With the news having come out that Larry Bird has left the Indiana Pacers, the Orlando Magic are one team that should be on high alert. Having correctly fired their bumbling general manager Rob Hennigan straight after the regular season ended, they need to find a new and more established fit for their front office.

Bird would provide just that, but there is one key issue that would need to be addressed, and it’s a major stumbling block.

That is the fact that Bird fired current head coach Frank Vogel from the Pacers only last summer, at a time when most felt he was doing as good a job as any.

If Bird shows interest though, but only under the condition that Vogel leaves the team, whose side would you be on? Bird’s or Vogel’s?

Of course there is also a third possibility, and that is that Bird comes on board and continues to let Vogel work as head coach. Time heals most wounds, and the two did work well together in Indiana. With no star player currently on this team however, would their peak with this team be similar to that of the Pacers?

If you’re a Magic fan, do you think the combination of those two is enough to become relevant again? Perhaps it is, but at such a critical time in this organization’s history upon us, they would be wiser to choose one direction and stick to it.

But before we get all caught up in the excitement of potentially having one of the five best players to ever play the game around the place, let’s make a case for Vogel as the head coach.

Apr 8, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel reacts from the bench during the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Amway Center. The Pacers won 127-112. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

He inherited an aimless roster last summer, and tried to turn them into a defensive unit, much like he did with the Pacers. They finished the regular season with a defensive ranking of 107.6, the 21st best mark in the league.

It was below the league average (105.4), but in reality that number slipped once the team embraced the idea of tanking once more. For a period there they were around the league average, but should we have expected more from Vogel on that front?

After all he had Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka (for a little more than half the season) and Elfrid Payton on the roster — three above-average defenders who at one point all started for this team.

We may have to mark that down to Vogel’s coaching to not get the best out of them throughout the year.

The Aaron Gordon experiment was another one which did not sit well with fans. For 58 games he was used as a small forward in a smaller lineup. It was clear Gordon struggled throughout, having to rely more on his jump shooting than his outrageous athletic abilities.

When Ibaka was moved to the Toronto Raptors, Gordon was able to play in his more natural position once more, and played some of the best basketball of his young career as a result.

It was brave of Vogel to try, but ultimately it stunted Gordon’s growth and hurt the team at a time when they were meant to be making a playoff push.

The Magic also finished 29-53, regressing on last season’s 35-47 effort. It was the fifth year in a row they’ve finished bottom of their division. They played at much the same pace as the season before, but their offensive rating as a team dipped from 102.6 to 101.2, per NBA.com.

More worryingly, the defensive rating cratered from 104.6 in 2015-16 to 108.0 this season.

Taking a big step backwards offensively but not seeing the same improvement on the defensive end pretty much sums up the Magic’s season in a sentence.

Finally, the misuse of Mario Hezonja was as baffling as it was shocking, particularly when the season was a lost cause. He averaged 14.8 minutes a night, down on the 17.9 he enjoyed as a rookie.

His confidence looked shot every time he did enter a game, to the point he would jack up wild shots most likely because he didn’t know when he’d see the ball again.

He got better as the season wore on and the games meant less, and he seems to have a great understanding with Biyombo. But Vogel has to do a better job of incorporating him into the team moving forward because at this point, both his productivity and trade value are at an all-time low.

All of this is to say, Frank Vogel could have done better last season. But looking at what he was given to work with, could he actually have done anything more?

If Larry Bird came onboard, and if he wanted to once again fire Vogel because they don’t see eye to eye, who else is out there? It’s fair to say Bird’s name alone would draw coaches in, but what else would he bring to the table?

For starters, the intriguing possibility of bringing former teammate Kevin McHale with him to Orlando in the role of team president.

More than anything else, that would create some much needed stability for the franchise.

Both are winners, and if the Magic struggled to find another head coach in the short term, McHale could even take on that position in an interim role.

Fans have short memories, and the Houston Rockets are in a great place now, but McHale did guide them to the conference finals only two years ago.

Bird also oversaw the growth of a small market team in Indiana, to the point that they reached the Eastern Conference Finals two years in a row.

Vogel was the head coach then as well though, so there’s no guarantee he replicates that success in Orlando.

He also oversaw the drafting of George, as well as some nice moves to put the team in a position to contend.

In recent times, adding Jeff Teague was largely a positive, while drafting Myles Turner was another great decision. They did let Kawhi Leonard slip through their fingers though, trading him on draft night for George Hill.

It is also worth considering that Hill is a borderline elite point guard up in Utah with the Jazz these days as well.

But perhaps it is Bird’s abilities in the draft that the team are most interested in. After all, he’s largely visible at all manner of games and has the reputation that commands respect.

Oct 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; From left to right Indiana Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh, owner Herb Simon, and president Larry Bird watch the Indiana Pacers play against the Dallas Mavericks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Dallas 130-121 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

That and the fact that he wouldn’t be afraid to make the big calls, such as moving Nikola Vucevic if necessary or not committing long-term to a divisive player like Payton.

The Orlando Magic need a starting point, however, and they could do much worse than Larry Bird. Or David Griffin for that matter.

Frank Vogel didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in his first year with the team either, but you can’t just change head coaches year after year like this team has done for some time now. At some point a head coach has to be given the time to build something.

Which is what we should give Frank Vogel. Unless Larry Bird wants in, in which case the team should kick Vogel out and go with him.


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