Orlando Magic fire coach Jacque Vaughn, three assistants
ORLANDO, Fla. — Before the Orlando Magic opened training camp, both coach Jacque Vaughn and general manager Rob Hennigan said they wanted a team dedicated and committed to being defensive-minded.
That dedication and commitment have been gone for some time now. And as of Thursday, so was Vaughn.
Mired in their fourth losing streak of at least 10 games in less than three years, the Magic fired Vaughn and promoted lead assistant coach James Borrego to replace him on an interim basis, beginning with Friday night's home game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Magic had not won more than 23 games in either of Vaughn's two previous seasons after he was hired in July 2012 to replace Stan Van Gundy.
Their record stands at 15-37 this season, with only two victories since defeating the Miami Heat on Dec. 29. They're ranked 29th out of 30 teams in defensive field-goal percentage (.471) and 24th in points allowed per game (102.3). Fourteen consecutive opponents have scored more than 100 points, something that last happened during the franchise's expansion season of 1989-90.
"The defense is going to be our focus," said Borrego, 37, who was part of Vaughn's staff since 2012 after coming to Orlando following two seasons as an assistant in New Orleans.
Two weeks after Vaughn was hired, Hennigan pulled off the trade that sent away Dwight Howard — Orlando's all-time leader in points and rebounds and the star of the team that reached the 2009 NBA Finals. While the Magic received some quality players in the four-team deal, particularly center Nikola Vucevic, the Magic have been in a rebuilding mode ever since.
The Magic's current record is the same as it was through the first 52 games of last season.
"We went into the season wanting to see some progress," Hennigan said. "We wanted to see growth. And we just didn't feel like we were seeing the type of growth that we wanted to see. So that led us to this point."
Added Magic CEO Alex Martins: "We told you at the beginning of the season we felt like this was a season we needed to turn the corner. And we haven't. Not at this point in time. We feel like we're still going to turn the corner. We may have to take a little bit of a U-turn here in the short term, but we're just not where we expected or feel we should be."
Vaughn, who turns 40 next week, played 12 years in the NBA and was a member of the Magic in the 2002-03 season. He spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs before being hired by the Magic. His job was thought to be on thin ice a week ago after the Magic never led and trailed by as many as 29 points in a loss at home to the Milwaukee Bucks.
His final game was a 110-103 loss on Wednesday night at San Antonio. Vaughn finished with a 58-158 record, with his winning percentage of .269 the worst of any of the nine coaches in Magic history.
It's the first in-season coaching change the Magic have made under owner Rich DeVos since Johnny Davis was replaced with assistant Chris Jent in March 2005.
"I would like to thank Mr. DeVos and family for the opportunity of representing the Orlando Magic as head coach," Vaughn said in a statement released by the team. "I am a stronger and wiser man and coach because of the opportunity. I look forward to seeing this group continue to grow. God bless, good luck."
Also let go were assistant coaches Wes Unseld Jr. and Brett Gunning, as well as manager of advanced scouting Zach Guthrie. The only assistants under Borrego for now are Laron Profit and Jay Hernandez.
Borrego was the coach of the Magic's summer league team in 2013, meaning he got to work with Victor Oladipo two weeks after the Magic selected the guard with the second overall pick in the draft. He also served as an assistant coach and video coordinator with the Spurs but has no previous head coaching experience at the pro or college level.
"Player development is the life blood of an organization," Borrego said. "That's what you can control. You can control those 15 in the locker room. And those 15 can get better."
Hennigan described the players as being "a little rattled" when they received the news about Vaughn.
"Every single one of them respects Jacque and enjoyed being around him," he said. "So this is a disruptive day for us."
Several reports have suggested Vaughn's eventual successor could be Scott Skiles, a former Magic point guard with previous head coaching experience with the Bucks, the Chicago Bulls and the Phoenix Suns. When asked about Borrego's future beyond this season, Hennigan replied, "I'm not going to get into specifics about anything relative to the coaching situation, other than the fact that JB is our coach."
Adding "there's never an ideal time to make a change of this magnitude," Hennigan spoke highly of Vaughn, as did Borrego.
"I'll say that Jacque Vaughn is an incredible person," he said. "He's a class act. He's an A-plus human being. He was a joy and a pleasure to work with."
"We grew together," Borrego added. "We fought together. We sweated together. And we bonded. I'm going to miss him on a daily basis."