Not waiting around for too long, the Orlando Magic will probably announce their new head coaching hire very soon, with the options narrowing down to Michael Malone or Scott Skiles.
The shortlist was a lot longer 24 hours ago, with Malone, the former head coach of the Sacramento Kings who was surprisingly fired midway through this season, being the number one candidate mostly thanks to his defensive prowess. Skiles seemed to be just one of a long list of candidates, some of them who have actually interviewed for the job back in 2012 (Michael Curry, Jeff Hornacek, Lindsey Hunter, Brian Shaw and Jacques Vaughn).
But Skiles was a big part of the early days of Orlando in the NBA, playing for the Magic from 1989 to 1994, including the early goings of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway before getting traded to make room for Hardaway as a point guard, something that this wonderful Grantland article touches on. He still holds the NBA record for assists in one game (30), doing it while playing for the Magic.
Skiles still has strong ties to the organization and comes with more experience than Malone, although not all of it good. He is 443-433 overall as a head coach, working with the Suns, Bulls and Bucks. Although he was quite successful in terms of making the playoffs during his years in Phoenix and Chicago, in Milwaukee he only made the postseason once in four seasons, fired on his fifth attempt.
Malone, like Skiles, is known for his defensive approach and being somewhat of a disciplinarian in his approach, although probably a less ‘old-school’ than Skiles. He turned out to be quite popular with Kings players but that didn’t help him from getting fired, unlucky to have DeMarcus Cousins injured for a long stretch earlier this season, and not seeing eye to eye with the owner’s view of how the team should be playing (more offensive). He won 36.8% of his games before getting fired 24 games into the 2014-2015 season, posting an 11-13 record.
Other names that have been mentioned include Mark Jackson, Nate McMillan, Alvin Gentry and Tom Thibodeau, should he and Chicago part ways after the season. Whoever it’ll be, he’ll be replacing James Borrego, coaching the Magic for the final 30 games of the season, taking over the job after Jaques Vaughn was fired.