Orlando Magic Coaching Staff - A Review
Orlando Magic fans, preparation for the 19-20 NBA season is underway. Many sports fans quickly inform themselves of roster changes or adjustments, But in this article, I want to highlight the Magic coaching staff. With such a young core of players, the coaching staff's role will be as, if not, more important than the roster itself.
Steve Clifford - Head Coach
Steve Clifford brought the Orlando Magic out of a 6-year playoff drought with an incredible 22-9 end of season run. What people forget about Clifford however, is that he was a part of the last playoff run under Stan Van Gundy. Clifford was an assistant under Stan Van Gundy for 5 seasons. Coach Clifford has become known for his strong defensive scheming with an emphasis on ball deflection. When looking at defensive efficiency within the NBA, Clifford helped the Magic reach a top 10 ranking in almost every defensive category. This upcoming season Steve’s biggest challenge may be on the offensive end. Clifford’s offense at times looks stagnate, mainly because his squad has to rely on Vucevic to score inside. With the integration of Markelle Fultz and the furthering development of Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, it will be interesting to see how Clifford will evolve this year’s offense. It would immensely play to Orlando’s talent to space the floor and engage in more of a fastbreak style. This will help Steve not repeat his Charlotte stint all over again.
Mike Batiste - Assistant Coach
Mike Batiste knows what hard work is, let's take a look at Batiste’s basketball resume. He started his playing career at the Junior College (JUCO) level which led to him earning an NCAA D1 scholarship to Arizona State University. At Arizona State, Batiste leads the Pac-10 in blocked shots for one season and was named first-team All Pac-10 the following season. Batiste played 14 years of professional basketball, 1 year in the NBA. While playing professionally overseas, Batiste was always part of Championship teams. Looking at his achievements, Batiste will most likely coach up the Magic’s young frontcourt on both ends of the court. While playing professionally in Europe, Batiste was known for his constant hard work, footwork around the rim, and was a rim runner. Batiste’s experience and knowledge could improve Bamba’s defensive IQ and footwork around the rim along with advancing rookie Chuma Okeke’s learning curve as a potential “small ball big”, Not to mention Okeke and Batiste have very similar physics, both stand at 6’8” and were both versatile players who can play inside-out.
Tyrone Corbin - Assistant Coach
Coach Corbin, 7th All-Time scoring leader at DePaul University, brings NBA experience to this young Orlando Magic core. Corbin played 15 seasons in the NBA (the average NBA career is 4.9 seasons). As a small forward himself, Corbin seems like the perfect fit to develop Arron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. Coach Corbin knows the NBA and what it takes to add value to a team. He will be able to teach, lead and mentor this core about what it takes to stay in the NBA. Corbin was also named head coach to two NBA teams. The two players who can benefit the most from Coach Corbin are Gordon and Isaac. Corbin will be able to breakdown game film with AG and JI and pinpoint different aspects of their game to tweak during the season to keep defenders on their heels. The Magic will need AG and JI to provide an offensive boost this coming season.
Pat Delany - Assistant Coach
Coach Delany is Saint Anselm College’s All-Time Assist leader which translates into court vision. Delany also led the NE-10 conference in Assist to Turnover Ratio for 3 of the 4 seasons that he played and also led NCAA D2 play in assist in 2002. This past summer, Delany was named the head coach of the Magic’s summer league team. Delany showed a desire to have the guards push the tempo, having the bigs run the floor and used a lot of pindown screens with an emphasis on using the team’s length to clog the paint defensively. If the summer league foreshadows the 2019-20 season, this season should be fun. With 17 years of professional coaching experience, one year as a G-League head coach, do not be surprised if Pat is on the shortlist of possible head coaches following this season.
Steve Hetzel - Assistant Coach
Rumors swirled before the 2018-19 season about Steve Hetzel possibly leaving Clifford’s staff. Hetzel, who oversees the Magic’s offensive play calls, interviewed for the head coaching opening for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Cavs front office decided to go in another direction (their loss, our win). Hetzel has a history of developing young players. During his stint as an assistant coach with the Pistons, Hetzel helped developed three players to All-Rookie honors. Jonas Jerebko made Second Team in 2010, Greg Monroe made Second Team in 2011 and Brandon Knight made First Team in 2012. In a league that is getting younger and younger – a coach with Hetzel’s track record of successfully developing young talent is a great asset for Clifford’s staff.
Bruce Kreutzer - Assistant Coach
Shooting! Shooting! Shooting! This is what Bruce Kreutzer is known for. Looking at the stat comparison from the 2017-18 season to last season, it is hard to deny the impact Kreutzer has had. During Kreutzer’s first season the Magic finished 28th in the league in 3pt %. Last season, 2018-19, the Magic finished 11th in 3pt%. With that vast improvement, it shouldn’t be hard for Bruce to have the squad finishing Top 5 in a league that is valuing the 3pt shot exponentially. From social media workout clips, Gordon’s shooting mechanics looked to have changed, for the better. AG’s shot looks smoother, less wasted movement, and his release seems quicker as well. Also, Isaac seems to be shooting the long ball with more confidence. It will be nice to see how JI’s shot has improved with Team USA during Select Fiba play. When it comes to shooting, the mental side of shooting a basketball is just as important as the actual mechanics of shooting. Insert Markelle Fultz. A few videos recently surfaced on social media of Fultz going through a shooting workout, and it's safe to say, for now, Kreutzer may be the next shooting Guru. In the short clips Fultz looked good, it appears that Bruce will have to work with Markelle more so with the mental side of shooting than the mechanics.
Rick Higgins - Assistant Coach
Higgins is an Associate Coach of Player Development. Higgins's focus is mostly on paint touches. His analysis of those touches is highly valued in determining the efficiency of the offense. Because he analyzes when the players effectively move the ball in the paint and the scoring opportunities, Nikola Vucevic’s all-star breakout season can be attributed in part to the work that Rick Higgins has done. Through these analyses of the paint game, Higgins can determine where Vooch can receive the ball and when making the offense run through our Big Man. Higgins has also been tasked with the direct development of players. We are all eager to see the offseason development of AG, JI, Bamba, and the reintroduction of Markelle Fultz to the NBA. The in-season development will be partly statistically driven and that analysis will in large part be conducted by Rick Higgins.
All of the pieces seem to be put in place on Steve Clifford’s staff. Clifford is well known as a defensive-minded coach. His teams tend to adopt his intensity on the defensive end. Many coaches like to create a culture and staff that will help illuminate the head coach’s strengths, but Coach Clifford has achieved the opposite. Clifford has assembled a staff that will help with the continued development of the Magic’s young core on the offensive end. Magic fans should be excited about what these assistant coaches will bring to this coming year's team. Steve and his staff have a lot of work to do to improve upon last season, but the track record of this staff shows that they are up for the challenge.
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