Insider: The Next Magic General Manager?
Since the Orlando Magic and Otis Smith decided to part ways on May 21, we’ve heard a lot of names connected with a job, including several bigger names.
That list included Phil Jackson in some capacity, but he is no longer a candidate.
Before we take a look at the list, it should be known that the Portland Trail Blazers, who also are currently without a general manager, have narrowed their search to three. Per Jason Quick of The Oregonian, Jeff Bower, David Morway and Neil Olshey are the three finalists.
Here are the candidates the Magic are showing interest in.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reported former Hornets General Manager Jeff Bower was a serious candidate for the job and interviewed with the Magic Wednesday.
Bower took over for Byron Scott as the Head Coach of the Hornets when Scott was let go. He helped build a Hornets team that won 56 games and came within one game of advancing to the Western Conference Finals in 2008.
As injuries mounted and some players moved on (Tyson Chandler), the Hornets regressed and they let Bower go in 2010.
On Saturday, Adrian Wojnarowski, of Yahoo Sports, reported the Magic have showed interest in three more executives – Rob Hennigan and Troy Weaver of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dennis Lindsey of the San Antonio Spurs.
Hennigan works in the Oklahoma City Thunder office, helping in all facets of player personnel. On Oklahoma City’s website, Hennigan is listed as “Assistant General Manager/Player Personnel.” The site specifically ties Hennigan in with overseeing their scouting department, something the Magic clearly need an upgrade in after all of their misses in the draft.
Hennigan broke into the league as a Spurs intern in 2004/05 before eventually being named Director of Basketball Operations in 2007. He just completed his fourth year with the Thunder.
Kupchak is currently the General Manager for the Los Angeles Lakers.
After a lengthy career in the NBA, Kupchak earned his MBA from UCLA and became an assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Lakers under long term player and executive Jerry West. Kupchak took over as general manager but still apparently answered to West. West left in 2000 to take over in Memphis in 2000 and Kupchak remained the general manager with more power. Kupchak has helped the team make many moves, including acquiring Pau Gasol and drafting Andrew Bynum.
However, many believe there is somewhat of a power struggle in Los Angeles and Kupchak make like to move to a team where he is in complete charge of their transactions.
Lindsey serves as the Assistant General Manager and Vice President of the San Antonio Spurs.
Many, including our own Steve Kyler, who co-hosts The Game on Sunday afternoons in Tampa, believe Lindsey to be the top candidate.
Lindsey spent 11 years with the Houston Rockets before joining General Manager R.C. Buford in San Antonio. Together, the duo have helped build the Spurs into a model franchise. Of course, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were already in San Antonio, but the Spurs have since added several key pieces and have seven second round picks on their roster. Players like Danny Green are considered diamonds in the rough while their Spurs hit a home in the draft with Kawhi Leonard.
According to a source, the Magic are very interested in at least one of the men credited with helping build the Pacers into top three seed in the Eastern Conference.
Morway is currently the General Manager and part of an excellent executive team that includes Kevin Pritchard and and Larry Bird.
Morway was the Vice President of Basketball Administration when Donnie Walsh was CEO and President of the team. When Walsh left in 2009, Bird became President of Basketball Operations and promoted Morway to General Manager.
Under Morway’s watch, the Pacers have shown great improvement, making the playoffs in 2011 before earning the three seed in the 2012 postseason and advancing to the second round where they ultimately lost to the Miami Heat in six games. Over the last few seasons, the Pacers have added guards George Hill, Darren Collison and Leandro Barbosa through trades, signed forward David West and added Paul George via the draft. Hill, George and West all started every playoff game for the Pacers this season while Collison was a starter for most of the season.
Pritchard works with Morway and Larry Bird in Indiana. He is officially the Director of Player Personnel. He was hired in July of 2011.
After retiring as a player in 1998, Pritchard became general manager of the ABA’s Kansas City Knights in 2001. R.C. Buford brought Pritchard to San Antonio, but he was quickly scooped up by Portland. They hired Pritchard to be their Director of Player Personnel. In 2006, the Trail Blazers fired head coach Maurice Cheeks and Pritchard took over on an interim basis. Pritchard became the interim coach. In 2006, he became assistant general manager. He was involved in several big trades, the most famous of which being went he sent the fourth overall pick (Tyrus Thomas) and Viktor Khryapa to the Chicago Bulls for the second overall pick, which they turned into All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge.
When Steve Patterson resigned in 2007, Pritchard became the GM. After a rash of injuries, Pritchard was fired in 2010.
Orlando could have a problem getting Morway or Pritchard. If Bird steps down from his job, which many expect him to do, Morway could take Bird’s spot while Pritchard takes Morway’s spot (like what happened when Walsh stepped down).
Both Pacers executives are also interesting because of ownership’s interest in current Pacers assistant Brian Shaw.
Walsh is a team consultant for the New York Knicks.
Walsh got his start as a college assistant coach before jumping to the NBA. He eventually became an assistant for both the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers and was Denver’s head coach for a season. Later he became Indiana’s general manager and famously selected UCLA’s Reggie Miller over a local product and hero, Steve Alford of Indiana.
In 2008, Walsh became the President of Basketball Operations with the New York Knicks. The Knicks were an absolute mess and Walsh helped reload them with young talent and cut the pay roll by $27 million, allowing them to make a run at the most heralded free agent class of all-time in 2010. That class included the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, among others. The Knicks wound up signing Amar’e Stoudemire. During the next season, Walsh turned some of his young talent, including Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler into Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
Walsh resigned in June of 2011.
Walsh’s age (71) is definitely a concern and many have speculated the Magic could attempt to put together a team similar to what they have in Indiana by making Walsh Team President and one of the other candidates General Manager.
Weaver is currently the Assistant General Manager and Vice President of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Weaver is considered one of the league’s top young executives. Weaver joined the Thunder in 2008. According to Oklahoma City’s website, Weaver “assists General Manager Sam Presti with roster development and day-to-day basketball operations.”
Wojnarowski notes that Weaver “pushed hard” for the Thunder to draft Russell Westbrook fourth overall in 2008, a move that has certainly worked out. Westbrook is one of the best guards in the NBA and was just rewarded with an extension in January.
Before joining the Thunder, Weaver spent three years as Head Scout of the Utah Jazz before being promoted to Director of Player Personnel in 2007. He was also once an assistant coach at Syracuse from 2001-04. The Orange won the national title in 2003.
Weaver was a candidate for the Portland job last season but withdrew his name from consideration in early October.
(Andrew Melnick is the ESPNFlorida.com Magic and NBA Insider, co-host of the ESPN 1080 Insiders Show and publisher of Howard the Dunk. The Insiders Show can be heard Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST on AM 1080 in Orlando and on ESPNFlorida.com. You can follow Andrew on twitter here.)