Scott Skiles steps down as coach of Orlando Magic
Team now seeking its 4th coach in as many years
Scott Skiles has stepped down as coach of the Orlando Magic after just one year, the somewhat surprising decision coming about a month after the conclusion of a frustrating regular season.
Skiles was 35-47 this season, his lone year leading the Magic — the team that he spent five seasons with as a player as well. The Magic started 19-13 this season, then after the calendar flipped to 2016 they lost 34 of their final 50 games and missed the playoffs.
"After much thought and careful consideration, I and I alone, have come to the conclusion that I am not the right head coach for this team," Skiles said in a statement released by the team. "Therefore, effective immediately, I resign my position as head coach of the Orlando Magic. I realize this type of decision can cause much speculation.
"The reality though is in the first sentence. It is simple and true. Any other rumours are pure conjecture."
The team said a search for a new coach is starting immediately.
The Magic are a world-class organization that employs world-class people. I wish them nothing but great success.- Scott Skiles, former Orlando coach
"This is certainly a challenging day for us, an unexpected day," Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. "I think that when Scott and I first met a year ago we had some great dialogue. We talked about basketball philosophy, basketball character and the things we look for in players.
"Quite honestly, that dialogue continued throughout the course of the season. So with the news we received from Scott [on Wednesday], we were very surprised by it, took as aback a little bit."
Hennigan said Skiles made a personal decision, adding: "He felt like it was the right thing to do for him and his family."
Orlando's Evan Fournier took to Twitter to convey his shock shortly after the news broke, and Magic guard Victor Oladipo said he wanted to thank Skiles for helping him "improve on both ends of the floor."
"What I learned from him I will keep with me for the rest of my career," Oladipo wrote. "I wish him all the best in anything he does."
Im as surprised as anyone else, but I just wanna thank coach skiles for helping us but especially me improve ... <a href="https://t.co/6CzbFmIHeQ">https://t.co/6CzbFmIHeQ</a>—@VicOladipo
Skiles' departure gave Orlando the fourth current coaching opening in the NBA, joining vacancies in Indiana, Memphis and Houston. It also becomes the 233rd coaching change since Gregg Popovich took over as coach of the San Antonio Spurs in December 1996.
Orlando improved its win total by 10 this season compared to its pace from 2014-15, but most of those gains came early in the year. The Magic were nine and six in November — the team's first winning month in nearly four years — then led the Eastern Conference with a 10 and five record in December. Skiles was the NBA's East coach of the month, and the Magic were squarely in the playoff hunt.
And then came a freefall that never really stopped. The Magic finished 11th in the East, nine games out of a playoff spot.
"We had good dialogue throughout the course of the season and good dialogue means lots of different things," Hennigan said of his relationship with Skiles. "It means disagreements, arguments, debates and jokes. We certainly had all of that."
Orlando's next coach will be the team's fourth in the span of four years. Stan Van Gundy was fired in 2012, and he's been followed by Jacque Vaughn, James Borrego on an interim basis to end the 2014-15 season, and then Skiles this season.
In parts of 14 seasons as a head coach, Skiles has a 478-480 record. He's also coached in Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee.
"I sincerely apologize for any unintended consequences that may adversely affect anyone associated with this decision," Skiles said. "The Magic are a world-class organization that employs world-class people. I wish them nothing but great success."
With files from AP's Tim Reynolds in Miami