ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Without a coach and facing a future that may not include five-time All-Star center Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic are at something of a crossroads.
Now at least they have someone in charge.
The Magic introduced their new general manager Thursday, assigning 30-year-old Rob Hennigan with the task of reversing the fortunes of an NBA franchise that has been slipping since reaching the NBA Finals three years ago.
“There’s no question there’s pressure,” said Hennigan. “This is a pressure business and you’ve got to earn your keep, and nobody’s going to try to do any favors for you. We’re just going to keep our heads down and keep our sleeves rolled up and get to work.”
Hennigan was an assistant general manager for the last two of his four years in Oklahoma City after entering the NBA in the front office of the San Antonio Spurs in 2004. Those cities proved to be the right places, and at the right times, for Hennigan, who is the league’s youngest general manager.
“His experience, and what he’s done in the organizations that he’s been with, far exceed his years, and clearly that’s what’s important,” said Alex Martins, the Magic’s chief executive officer. “Age is not a factor; experience and who you’ve worked with and the habits that you’ve developed, that’s what’s important in being successful in this role.”
Hennigan replaces Otis Smith, who was fired May 21 along with coach Stan Van Gundy.
The Magic won 52 or more games in four straight seasons under Smith and Van Gundy, and reached the finals in 2009. They went 37-29 this season and lost in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. The season was marked by Howard’s request to be traded and his occasional expressions of dissatisfaction with Van Gundy and Smith.
Entering the final year of his contract, Howard has not withdrawn his trade request.
“Personally I look forward to sitting down with Dwight and sharing with him the vision and the direction we’re going to go,” Hennigan said, “and I look forward to listening to what his thought process is and where his head’s at. At the end of the day, we’ll take it from there.”
As for hiring a new coach, Hennigan said “we’re going to be starting that process immediately.” He will look for a head coach to “embrace player development” and take a long-term approach.
“Simply put,” Hennigan said, “our goal is to build an elite basketball operation, both on the court and off the court.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.