- Dallas Mavericks’ assistant coach Jamahl Mosley is now the top candidate for the vacant Orlando Magic head coaching job.
- Mosley is reportedly–and understandably–peeved that he didn’t get real consideration for the Mavericks’ job which went to Jason Kidd.
- Penny Hardaway turned down the Orlando job late last month, opting to stay at the University of Memphis.
If reports are correct, the Orlando Magic will soon be Jamahl Mosley’s problem. The Dallas Mavericks’ assistant coach is presumed to be the top candidate to become the Magic’s next head coach replacing Steve Clifford who was either fired and/or ‘mutually parted ways’ with the team last month. Orlando finished at 21-51 in the 2020-2021 NBA season, second worst in the Eastern Conference and third worst in the NBA.
Mosley is a very highly regarded assistant who played college ball at the University of Colorado before a short stint in European professional basketball. He became an assistant in 2005, initially with the Denver Nuggets before moving on to Cleveland and Dallas. He was initially considered to be the favorite to take over as the Dallas Mavericks’ next head coach following the departure of Rick Carlisle. When BetOnline.ag opened odds to be the next Mavs’ coach it was Mosley that topped the betting board at +100. Instead, the job went to Jason Kidd (a +600 co-second choice with Becky Hammon and Terry Stotts) and Mosley reportedly isn’t thrilled with the decision as well as the scant consideration he feels he received. With his services very much in demand elsewhere he’s been linked to the vacant head coaching job with the Washington Wizards as well as the recent development in Orlando.
Orlando doesn’t seem to be having much luck finding a replacement for Steve Clifford and that could have something to do with their flaky team president, Jeff Weltman. When Weltman announced the departure of Clifford he went off on a bizarre tangent about he and his former head coach ‘no longer being aligned’:
“Obviously, we’ve repositioned our team. And so, there has to be alignment. There has to be alignment in everything you do in this league. And if there’s not alignment, it’ll undermine everything.”
When asked to further explain the decision to part ways with Clifford he started to yammer about ‘alignment’ again:
“The ‘why’ is quite simple here: alignment. And if Cliff is questioning whether the positioning of our team kind of aligns with his own career positioning, then he’s probably not the right guy at that point. I appreciate the fact that Cliff can look himself in the mirror and have those conversations with himself because I don’t think a whole lot of people can do that.”
At the time of the Clifford departure, Weltman stressed that his next coach would have previous NBA head coaching experience. He then turned around and did a hard sell on former Magic superstar Penny Hardaway, now heading into his fourth year as head coach at the University of Memphis. Hardaway has shown some serious coaching chops at Memphis taking the team to a 63-32 record in his tenure and winning the NIT last season. He wasn’t initially considered a candidate because–you guessed it–he lacks NBA head coaching experience. When the media questioned Clifford on the previous insistence of head coaching experience as a non-negotiable prerequisite for his next head coach the Magic president gave another bizarre and inscrutable explanation:
“It’s an important component, for sure, and if you are going to hire someone without that experience, there have to be other strengths that you’re saying, ‘Well, we’re trusting that this will develop because we’ve seen X, Y, Z’. As you lay it all out, not everybody is going to have everything.”
“So, it’s really, and I always come back to this, it’s the person, it’s the fit, it’s the connection and that’s largely what defines a good coach, the ability to connect with the players. For sure, it’s something we’ll be weighing and considering, but that’s not, by a longshot, to say that we won’t hire someone without that experience.”
Translation: prior NBA head coaching experience is important. Unless it isn’t. No real surprise that Penny Hardaway went to the trouble of an interview with Orlando before he made the announcement that he was making the smart play and staying at Memphis. Back to ‘square one’ with two former NBA head coaches–Kenny Atkinson (former Brooklyn Nets head coach, now a Clippers’ assistant) and Terry Stotts (former Portland head coach) linked to the job along with another assistant without NBA experience, Wes Unseld Jr. Mosley’s name was mentioned as an afterthought along with two other candidates without head coaching experience, Bucks’ assistant Darvin Ham and perpetual candidate Becky Hammon.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and now Mosley is the top choice for the job along with Wes Unseld, Jr. Unseld is also a top candidate for the Washington job and given his family’s relationship with the franchise (his Hall of Famer dad redefined the power forward position in a Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets uniform. He was essentially Karl Malone twenty years earlier) you have to think the Wizards have the inside track. Interestingly, neither Unseld or Mosley was on the original ‘next coach of the Magic’ betting odds rundown. Both guys deserve a shot at the big chair and both have been paying their dues as assistants for 16 years but Mosley strikes me as the better choice.
No disrespect to Unseld but Mosley just oozes ‘leadership’. His imposing physical presence–he’s 6’8″ and still looks to be in game shape at 225 lbs–won’t hurt either and evokes the great Georgetown head coach John Thompson. Thompson preferred to use his intelligence and high basketball IQ to get the job done but when he needed to be he was a dude that nobody would cross. I get a similar vibe from Mosley. He may never have to back down a drug kingpin–as Thompson famously did to Rayful Edmond III back when Hoyas basketball was at the apex–but being a physically imposing guy is never a bad thing to have in the ‘toolbox’.