The Orlando Magic took their time, as they have done in the past, but late last week announced that Jamahl Mosley would be taking over as head coach from the outgoing Steve Clifford. Mosley a name not known to more casual fans around the league, but who has a solid reputation as a long-time assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks.
Mosley wasn’t the home crowd’s favorite to get the job. That was Penny Hardaway. He also wasn’t the choice for those who wanted to see Becky Hammon deservedly get her crack at being a head coach after so long as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs. Her day will come as well, sooner rather than later.
Mosley however represents the kind of coaching hire that brings with it a lot of positives. Anybody who is getting their first attempt at a job of which there are only 30 in the entire world is going to put their all into it. We know that. But beyond the expected effort levels, there’s much more to like.
The Orlando Magic surprised some by hiring Jamahl Mosley as their next head coach, but it was a calculated gamble that could pay big dividends.
We will learn a lot more about Mosley as a head coach when the Orlando Magic reveal which players they will be selecting with the fifth and eighth picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. The roster as it is currently constructed already has a number of young and intriguing players on the books. Perhaps none more so than R.J. Hampton, who has created some online buzz with his height recently.
Mosley spent seven years with the Mavericks, and in that time saw the team phase out one generational talent in Dirk Nowitzki, and draft another superstar in Luka Doncic (no Magic fans, this does not mean Doncic will ever want to join the organization sadly). This all happened under the tutelage of Rick Carlisle, one of the best coaches in the league.
It is telling that Carlisle rather surprisingly left town so soon after the Mavericks were eliminated from the postseason, and this could also be to the Magic’s gain in hiring Mosley. He is a coach who is highly thought of, and who has experience in working with players who are destined to become stars in the NBA.
The Orlando Magic don’t have any of those right now, but in Jonathan Isaac, they might one day soon. It will be fascinating and extremely important for the franchise that these two get in a room together soon, and start off on the right foot. Isaac and Fultz are both rehabbing torn ACLs currently, so this is an opportunity for other players to get a fresh start under coach Mosley.
None more so than Mohamed Bamba, who was never fully trusted by Clifford. Last season after the Magic traded center Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls, Bamba started to have more consistency in how he was playing. The only problem was that Wendell Carter Jr., who came over in the Vucevic deal, looked even better.
It would be great to see Mosley have a more offensive approach with this roster, but it remains to be seen if that will be the case. Defensively the Magic have the personnel to be league average without even doing anything special, so if some sacrifices are made on this end to get more scoring and general better offensive play going, fans will be delighted.
As this is Mosley’s first time as a head coach, the timeline is also perfect here. Carlisle himself would have been a great get because of all of his experience in the league. But he is more of a win-now kind of coach, a position the Magic are not in right now. The best-case scenario is that the young players and coach growing together, hopefully getting back to the playoffs before long.
The worst-case scenario is one we’ve seen before, and it is the reason this is a gamble. During their last rebuild, days much darker than they currently are now, the franchise hired Jacque Vaughn. He won 55 games over a two-and-a-half-year span in what was his first gig as the main man before he was fired.
Vaughn has subsequently rebuilt himself as an assistant with the Brooklyn Nets who is more fondly thought of around the league now. On reflection, it was a bad hire because the Magic were worse than bad, and Vaughn wanted to do the best job he could to look good. He was also inexperienced at that level, as Mosley is now.
The Orlando Magic’s roster is so much better than it was back then (look at your peril), but some of the same pitfalls still exist. Mosley is equipped to deal with them, and is an exciting young coach who it is hoped will get the best out of this group. The Magic have gone in a brave direction with this one, but it was the right move as they seek long-term stability and growth.