12:01pm: The firing is official, the team announced via press release, confirming that Borrego is taking over on an interim basis. The statement doesn’t mention Unseld, Gunning and Guthrie, the assistants whom Schmitz reports (below) that the team has also decided to fire.
“Jacque has been a trusted friend and colleague,” Hennigan said in the statement. “We thank him immensely for his contributions and sacrifices in bringing our team to this point, and we greatly appreciate his unwavering commitment to our organization. We have tremendous respect for Jacque and certainly wish him the best as he embarks on the next phase of his career.”
11:33am: The Magic have fired coach Jacque Vaughn, as Brian K. Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reports (Twitter link), though the club has yet to make an official announcement. A news conference is scheduled for this afternoon, Schmitz tweets. Assistant coach James Borrego is expected to take over on an interim basis, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Team officials by last week had made up their minds about firing Vaughn and were simply looking for the best time to do so, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com reported then. That was shortly after Schmitz heard that the front office was “not at all happy” with the coach’s performance. Vaughn was on a deal that was to run through 2015/16 after the team picked up his option this past offseason.
Scott Skiles looms as a “serious candidate” to eventually take over as coach of the Magic, league sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Several executives around the league speculated that Skiles would become a favorite to formally succeed Vaughn, as Broussard reported last week, also identifying Mark Jackson among the “names to watch” in regard to the job. There’s a “real chance” that Orlando hires a replacement during the All-Star break later this month, Wojnarowski hears (Twitter link).
Vaughn, 39, was in the midst of his third season as coach of the Magic after having served a brief apprenticeship as an assistant coach with the Spurs. Orlando has shown only incremental improvement during each year of Vaughn’s tenure, starting with a league-worst 20-62 record in his first campaign, and the Magic are 15-37 this season, nine games in the loss column behind the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Vaughn’s career record is 58-158, giving him a winning percentage of .269, the second lowest for anyone who’s ever coached 200 or more regular season games, according to Basketball-Reference, as Schmitz and Sentinel colleague Josh Robbins point out in a full story.
GM Rob Hennigan didn’t give Robbins a direct answer when he asked Hennigan last month whether Vaughn’s job was safe through the end of the season. The GM did describe the coach’s performance as “solid,” but while the team believed a month or so ago that inexperience was at the root of its problems, the club had since become increasingly concerned not just that the team was losing, but how it was losing, Robbins wrote last week. The Magic put up a stiff challenge to the Spurs on Wednesday, but Orlando fell for the 10th consecutive game, the longest current losing streak in the NBA.
The Magic are also firing assistants Wes Unseld Jr., Brent Gunning and Zach Guthrie, Schmitz tweets. Borrego, their fellow assistant who instead receives the short-term promotion to the head job, spent time as an assistant with the Spurs and Pelicans before joining Vaughn’s staff for the 2012/13 season.
Skiles was last in the NBA during that same 2012/13 campaign, when he was fired as coach of the Bucks at midseason. The 50-year-old Skiles is 443-433 in parts of 13 seasons as an NBA head coach, with stops in Phoenix and Chicago preceding his stint with Milwaukee. Jackson, 49, the other name connected to the vacancy, was let go after a three-year run with the Warriors in which he helped turn the franchise around and led them to a 121-109 record.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.