NBA Monday: Magic Still Working The Phones
Magic Still Looking: The Orlando Magic continue to search for a new head of basketball operations, and while a number of names have surfaced in the press, sources close to the process say there is no clear cut front runner.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported this weekend that Orlando has Oklahoma City assistant general managers Troy Weaver and Rob Hennigan on their interview radar along with Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey.
Those three join a list of executives that have either been scheduled for an interview or are on tap for an interview in the coming days.
Here are some thoughts on the names being mentioned:
Donnie Walsh, former Knicks president and current Knicks Consultant
Word has it that Walsh, while a fan favorite, may not want the job in Orlando. For Magic fans that may be a blessing. Walsh turns 72 in March and is not exactly in the best of health. If Walsh were to take the job it would be a short term situation at best.
That’s hardly the answer to the Dwight Howard riddle, and clearly not the answer to building a lasting infrastructure, unless the end goal is simply to have a proven and crafty basketball guy around to tutor those in the organization that need help. (see Alex Martins, Adonal Foyle)
Sources dialed into this process say Walsh is waiting for the Pacers to make their decision on where they go with Larry Bird. A return to the Pacers if Bird does opt to retire could be in the works, which seems to be Walsh’s first choice.
Most of Walsh’s family still lives in Indiana and a return to the Pacers is said to be the primary option.
Of all of the candidates on the market Walsh is clearly the most proven, especially in re-tooling and re-building, however at his age, Walsh would be more of a figure head than a hands on worker, so a Walsh hire would have to be part of a bigger staff assembly which could open the door for a return of long-time Magic GM John Gabriel, who worked for Walsh with the Knicks as Director of Pro Personnel.
David Morway, current Indiana Pacers General Manager
Morway has been linked to a number of open situations including the Magic. Morway’s first choice, according to sources close to the situation, is to remain with the Pacers and continue what he has started. However, with Larry Bird’s future unclear and Morway’s contract expiring in July. He is taking interviews.
The ideal scenario for the Pacers is that Larry Bird moves out of the Team President role and remains on as a special consultant to the Owner, and Morway moves into Bird’s chair as Team President and current Director of Players Personnel Kevin Pritchard moves into the GM role in Indiana.
That’s what Bird is expected to pitch to Herb Simon the Pacers owner when the two meet in the coming days. Should Simon opt to pass on that arrangement, Morway would be an outstanding hire in Orlando. Morway has been running the day to day of the Pacers for several years now and has negotiated most of the trades and contract signings the Pacers have made over the last few years.
Sources say Morway is intrigued by the Magic job and that keeping Dwight Howard in Orlando would be his first goal. That in and of itself should be music to the Magic’s ears. The problem is Morway is likely not leaving Indiana, so it may all be moot.
Jeff Bower, former New Orleans Hornets General Manager
Jeff Bower is expected to interview in Orlando this week. While Bower may not be the sexiest name in the hunt, he is a proven operator and a pretty good one at that.
Bower did a decent job in New Orleans, although he was prone to handing out some bad contracts, but most of that was related to baiting guys into coming to New Orleans.
Bower also had some success coaching the team when Byron Scott was relieved, and that experience should make him a better executive.
The Magic could do a lot worse than Jeff Bower. He is a smart basketball guy with a good eye for talent.
Kevin Pritchard, current Indiana Pacers Director of Player Personnel
Pritchard seems to be the fan favorite of the bunch, and word is he is more than interested in the Magic job. The wrinkle is the Magic may need to act quickly before the Pacers sign him to a new deal. Pritchard would love to get back to running his own show, but conceded recently that he really likes the situation in Indiana joking “I work for Larry Bird… come on.”
There is a very communal process in Indiana and Pritchard really enjoys how things have gone and is far more open to staying in Indiana than chasing a bad job somewhere else. The Magic job is intriguing, but not to the point where Pritchard is going to beg for it, so it’s on Orlando to get in front of him quickly.
Pritchard too would be a solid hire.
David Griffin, current Cavaliers’ Vice President of Basketball Operations
If David Griffin is not on the Magic’s list of candidates, someone should lose their job.
Griffin is a basketball junkie, having worked for the Suns for more than a dozen years. Griffin was a key reason the Suns drafted Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, acquired Steve Nash and countless others. If the Magic want a real shot at Steve Nash in free agency, hiring Griffin would be a good start.
Griffin was rumored to be the guy Larry Ellison had pegged to run the Warriors had he won out the bidding process to buy the team two years ago and he is among the best in the business at evaluating talent.
Griffin may not be the sexy pick, but he’d be an excellent hire, especially for a team than needs to get the most out of its draft picks going forward.
Tony Ronzone, former Minnesota Timberwolves Assistant GM
The Orlando Sentinel mentioned Ronzone as a GM candidate, which might be a bit misplaced. Ronzone would be an excellent Assistant GM for the Magic as that’s a role he’s played in the NBA for more than 15 years. There is an interesting wrinkle to Ronzone. He has a long standing relationship with Dwight Howard.
In addition to serving as Assistant GM of the Pistons for several years and then most recently the Timberwolves, Ronzone is also the director of international scouting for USA Basketball.
Ronzone spends virtually every summer with Team USA and is involved in the summer training camps that Howard has been a part of.
Not trying to suggest that Ronzone could deliver a Dwight Howard extension directly, but it clearly wouldn’t hurt the cause. They have a long standing relationship.
Ronzone was also involved in getting Ricky Rubio to the Timberwolves, which couldn’t hurt the Magic’s cause in trying to get Rubio’s long-time friend Fran Vasquez to Orlando.
While with the Pistons Ronzone discovered Mehmet Okur and Carlos Delfino and was a key part of the Wolves landing Nikola Pekovic.
Ronzone might not be the right guy for the GM job, but if the Magic really wanted to improve their basketball staff hiring Ronzone might be a smart play.
Tom Penn, current ESPN analyst and former Portland Trail Blazers Assistant GM
Like Ronzone, Penn might not be the right guy to run the team, but adding a high caliber cap guru wouldn’t hurt the cap strapped Magic. The magic have been terrible at managing their cap and Penn is among the best in the business.
If the Magic could land Kevin Pritchard, reuniting him with Penn as assistant GM would be extremely smart.
Penn as a GM on his own wouldn’t be terrible, but Penn is not nearly the basketball guy some of the other candidates are, so his hire would have to include a major basketball guy as part of the deal.
Steve Kerr, current Turner Sports TV Analyst
Steve Kerr has said he is not coming back this year, so you really can cross him off the list.
There has been some talk that Kerr’s next job might be as a head coach. Kerr has joked that coaching is something he’d have interest in exploring, especially considering how many guys have gone from the broadcast booth to the sidelines without having to toil away as an assistant coach.
Kerr isn’t an option for the Magic as head coach, but when you hear Kerr’s name kicked around, keep in mind he has teenage kids at home that he enjoys being around, ounce they head off to college, he’ll be back in the league fairly quickly.
He’s been approached about several GM-type jobs, so he’ll have options.
Adonal Foyle, current Magic director of player development.
Adonal will be staying on regardless of who gets hired as GM. Adonal became a trusted confidant of Magic CEO Alex Martin and he has become the sounding board for almost everything the team has done .
Foyle is not at all ready to run the show, which is why the Magic would like to see the next President/GM hire be willing to groom Adonal a bit more.
That’s going to be a tricky for almost everyone but Donnie Walsh.
If the Magic remain steadfast that a GM hire has to groom Foyle, then some candidates my shy away. In talking with league sources, Foyle gets nothing but high marks so it may not be nearly the hurdle for some secure operators, but if there is a sense that Foyle has his own role outside of a new structure, than that’s going to be an issue.
The Dark Horses
There are a couple of names that have not been linked to the Magic and should be.
Tommy Sheppard, Vice President of Basketball for the Washington Wizards – Sheppard is one of the best non-GMs in the business. He is a smart basketball guy with a keen eye for talent. He has great relationships with most of the power agents in the game, including Dwight Howard’s agent Dan Fegan.
If the Magic can’t get one of the guys on the list above, interviewing Sheppard would be a smart move.
Larry Harris, Consultant/Scout, Golden State Warriors – Harris is a lifer in the NBA and has been involved in the NBA at every level. Like Ronzone and Penn, he may not be the right guy to run the team, but he’d be a great hire to up the basketball IQ of the organization.
Sam Hinkie, Vice President of Basketball Operations Houston Rockets – Hinkie is a ‘moneyball’ type executive that’s keen on finding hidden talent. No one is better in the business at finding hidden value in a player like the Houston Rockets and Hinkie plays a big role in that. Like many of the names above, if the Magic are serious about upgrading their overall basketball IQ interviewing Hinkie is a must. It’s unlikely that Orlando could poach Hinkie for a lateral move, but getting him in for a meet and greet would be smart.
The Magic say they would like to have interviews wrapped up in the next week to ten days, with a hire in place well be for the June 28th NBA Draft.
Once the Magic have a GM hire in place they are expected to start interviewing head coaches, although it seems a short list of coaches has already started to emerge, so those interviews could happen almost in parallel with a GM hire.
Hanging In Vegas: We just wrapped up our swing through the various training sites on the West coast, including stops at Impact Basketball in LA and in Las Vegas. Every year there seems to be at least one or two hidden gems at Impact and this year there was no shortage of interesting draft prospects.
Kyle O’Quinn was a hero for Norfolk State during the NCAA Tournament, and as he prepared for draft workouts in Las Vegas, it became abundantly clear that O’Quinn isn’t just a draft pick. He might be the guy that sneaks into the bottom of the first round, much like Marquette’s Jimmy Butler did last year.
So let’s meet Kyle O’Quinn:
PITT”S Ashton Gibbs did not get an invite to the 2012 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and after spending a few days with him in Las Vegas, it’s impossible to understand why.
Gibbs is an NBA guard, and when you watch him shoot the ball, he is downright impressive. An NBA team is going to get a steal in Gibbs in the second round, and he’s likely one of the guys that makes scouts and executives look silly as a break out rookie.
So let’s meet Ashton Gibbs:
The 2012 NBA Draft Lottery is Wednesday, so we’ll know who is drafting when this week.
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