As the Magic's tough, injury-plagued season nears an end, coach Frank Vogel's days in Orlando are likely numbered.
The Magic (21-51) have lost eight of nine, most recently a 118-98 drubbing by the 76ers Thursday. As veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein noted in his New York Times newsletter, it's "a widely held assumption in coaching circles that Vogel will be dismissed after the franchise's sixth successive season out of the playoffs."
Since opening the season 8-4, the Magic have been a disaster. They followed that surprising start with a nine-game losing streak. Yet it's not like the collapse in recent months is Vogel's fault. Coming into the year with a roster of questionable talent, the Magic have suffered from a rash of injuries that have made matters even worse. Leading scorer Aaron Gordon has missed 23 games due to injuries, as has starting center Nikola Vucevic.
Guard Evan Fournier, the team's second-leading scorer, has missed 15 games. Forward Jonathan Isaac, the Magic's first-round pick (No. 6 overall) in last year's draft, has sat out 47 games.
Still, someone has to take the blame, and Vogel, who is 50-104 in two seasons with the Magic, may end up being the fall guy.
Will the Magic be any better under a different coach? Some wonder.
As Orlando Sentinel reporter Josh Robbins wrote this week, "In his two seasons with the Magic, Vogel has encountered the same deeply rooted issues that predecessors Jacque Vaughn and Scott Skiles couldn’t overcome: an inadequate roster, a losing culture and a group of players who often crumble when they face adversity."
Speculation has swirled for months that Vogel would be dismissed this offseason regardless of the team's performance, as Jeff Weltman, who took over as the president of basketball operations last offseason, wants to pick his own man for the post. That remains to be seen. Meanwhile, after the 76ers repeatedly beat the Magic in transition in Thursday's game, Vogel said he wants his team to keep playing hard, despite their struggles.
“Part of changing a losing culture,” Vogel said, “is not giving in, not relenting in situations where the other team’s kicking your butt."