This past Saturday night was a first in a couple of ways for Orlando Magic fans. To begin with, the Magic would be playing in their very first game of the season, a home-opening preseason contest against the Charlotte Hornets. The second would be witnessing their new head coach Scott Skiles living up to his reputation of a no non-sense coach and being honest about why he benched his starters and new prized lottery pick Mario Hezonja.
Skiles portrayed his tact for being stern and well spoken. Often he answered the media’s questions in more of a non-responsive manner, he was able to communicate his disappointment with the entire culture of the team. When referring to the benching of arguably his best players he was blunt about their lack of energy and blowing defensive assignments. He lightly praised Hezonja about his offensive confidence while immediately tearing apart his defensive side. Using the word “terrible” could not be more clear, Skiles was here to teach everyone that losing was not ok.
Having not being able to make it to the preseason game I decided to make my way to the open workout the team put on for fans. Essentially it was a scrimmage game that showcased all the Magic players and gave people a closer, albeit more relaxed, view of what the new look team would be. Throughout the night the players were having a good time entertaining everyone, back-to-back possessions saw Dewayne Dedmon finishing an ally-oop pass followed quickly with cheers from the crowd. Andrew Nicholson continued his success from the first game and looked polished and comfortable every time the ball came his way, he also looked energetic on defense which followed up on his first game that even got a rare nod from Skiles.
The entire night was a good time and everyone from the players to the fans seemed to be enjoying themselves. Yet, my eyes were glued to the only person in the building who seemed to be nothing but business. Sitting alone for most of the game, only speaking to welcome everyone to the Amway and to do a little coaching during time-outs, was the new general of the team. His stature and appearance from my view reminded me of a vulture stalking it’s yet dead prey, just waiting for some poor soul to make a mistake so he could yank him as soon as he could. Make no mistake, Skiles is here to make these guys play his brand of basketball. Whether or not they are successful, we will have to wait and see, but I have no doubt that no matter the outcome the players who don’t fall in won’t be seeing the floor too much.
The media and the fan base need to brace themselves for the Popovich-esque way Skiles is going to handle everything. During his post-game interview he mentioned how the fan base was too complacent and ok with losing, and that it wasn’t “OK.” “In Hennigan We Trust” is a popular saying among Magic fans, hopefully Skiles can right the mistake the young GM made when he chose Jacque Vaughn over many other candidates. Making Vaughn the head coach set the Magic back a few years. Coach Skiles I think can correct our mistakes and truly lead this young team to Wins.