Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fire Brian Hill PLEASE

Most educated fans here in Orlando are Brian Hill haters and want to see him fired. There is even a website called FireBrianHill.org where everyone is signing a petition. Here is an article that was worthy news to my blog that I haven't posted in several weeks. There's a guy here in Orlando who calls himself "MagicConfid" AKA "MC" who for several years has claimed to have inside information from the inside the Orlando Magic organization. Magic Officials have denied his claims. They have said he is a just a "really informed fan" who has done a lot of homework. He is also on the fire Brian Hill bangwagon. In this article he talks about how Brian Hill was run out of town a few years ago becuase of his unwillingness to change his ways. Now years later he was rehired and still has those same issues.

It's hard to say if this guy MC has legitimate inside information. Most of the information he brings out can be found out if you do alot of research. I do think he is getting some information from someone. But I dont think its very much or as much as he claims it is. Most of his info I think is educated guesses. With all that said take this information as you see fit. I think in this instance he's nailed it right on the head.

"Already armed with a few completed interviews of former NBA players, I sat infront of my TV watching the Magic play the Atlanta Hawks hoping that Penny Hardaway would grant my last interview request before doing this story. As of yet Hardaway has not come to a decision and this story has begun to grow legs of its own. To understand Coach Brian Hill you have to go back in time to the only NBA finals the Orlando Magic have ever been a part of. The Magic were riding high with the "why not us, why not now?" motto drummed up by owner Rich DeVos. Up until the opening tip off of the NBA finals the Magic had not had to play any teams with a dominant big man in the middle. It semed at the time all Hill had to do was play his inside out game with Shaq and all the cards would fall in to place. Every player had a specific role with the team and each starter was young and highly talented. But then the world came crashing down on the Magic and they were swept out of the playoffs 4-0 by the Houston Rockets. A lot of fans and media immediately pointed the finger at the players. Many cited that if Nick had made his free throws in the first game it would have been a different seriess and possibly a different outcome. This is where my story has to begin. I have taken the time to get interviews with 2 former Magic players and one former Grizzly in an attempt to perhaps understand why teams led by Brian Hill either perform extremely well or fall on their face. This story was to be published on another website and since I have so far been unable to get an interview with Penny Hardaway, it did not meet the deadline and thus I am completing it and posting it on here with the hope that it will have a final ending on it once I speak with Penny, for this reason I will use this forum as a summation of the events without quoting the specific players until I can verify what they said with Penny.

Going back to the time where the Magic got swept by the Rockets, the media was piling on the players and the players, namely Shaq, felt the coaches needed to share in the responsibility of the loss. Unfortunately, from many players perspectives, Coach Hill never took any of the heat for the loss. Immediately repercussions were felt that would last for a while and in the end haunt the Magic. At some point during the summer of 1995 Shaq came to the Magic management and let his feelings be known that he felt Brian Hill was not the right coach for him or the team. He was not openly trying to get Hill fired, he just let it be known he wanted to be coached by someone with a different style and a chmpionship track record. At the time management did not feel it was necessary to make a change since they had come off a longplayoff run, that in their mind was still a success eventhough the Magic did not win the Championship. Rumblings continued to plague the team during the 1996-1996 season. Shaq watched as Phil Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls to one of the all-time great records in NBA history. The magic were bounced from the playoffs by the Bulls that season and it was the last time Shaq ever wore a Magic uniform. During the summer of 1996 a lot was being writtne about the rift between Penny and Shaq and how Shaq felt disrecpected. This "fued" was really a media creation but in Shaq's mind it was very real but it was not necessarrily direct at Penny, but directed at Coach Brian Hill. As I was told, Brian Hill really favored Penny Hardaway. If there was ever a problem with the team on the court or in practice, Brian Hill rode Shaq the hardest and really never let Penny shoulder any blame, while giving him all the fame. When it came time to negotiate a new contract with Shaq in the summer of 1996, one of the biggest problems shaq had with the Magic is their insistence on not changing the coach. In management's mind, Coach Hill was just as much of the reason for success as was Peny as was Shaq. That equally they collectively were responsible for the success of the Magic, just not one person. Because of this and other reasons, Shaq made the decision to not resign with the Magic.

When the 1996-1997 season began, a lot of pressure was being put on Hardaway to now spread his wings and take his rightful place on the NBA throne unseating Michael Jordan. Many believed in the Magic organization that Shaq held back the growth of Penny and no one was more sure of this than Coach Brian Hill. Sure the loss of Shaq was devastating, but they still had Penny. Coach Hill really felt he could have just as good of team with Penny being the focal point of the offense. This caused a lot of problems between Penny and his teammates because he was now viewed as the REASON Shaq wanted to leave Orlando. As the season progessed and Shaq was no longer around to bear the brunt of Coach Hill's frustrations, Penny was the focus of all of Coach Hill's blowups, frustrations and player turmoil. Coach Hill put Penny in the position to be everything to the team and held him personally accountable when the team faultered. This was a lot to put on any player. The weight of the world was thrust upon Penny's shoulders because of Brian Hill. It was Brian Hill that favored Penny over Shaq during Shaq's tenure. It was because of this that Penny was villified in the press for Shaq leaving and never once did Coach Hill stand up and take any responsibility for it. A lot more could be written here that this pressure caused Penny to return too early from his first knee surgery causing an even bigger problem with his knee and thus destroying the prime of his career. Horace grant saw this first hand and because of this later on in his own career he encouraged then teammate Steven Hunter to not come back from surgery just to help the team and used Penny as an example of what could happen. This was the pressure Coach Hill put on to Penny Haradaway because it seems in Coach Hill's mind he stuck up for Penny and had a belief in him that was greater than that in Shaq. Penny to him was the next Michael Jordan. Penny was the $300,000 sports car, Shaq was the $300,000 bull-dozer. It finally came down to Penny feeling so much heat from Shaq leaving and that he was Brian Hill's boy that he had to show loyalty to his teammates instead of the overbearing Coach Hill.

I was told that when the team was winning under Coach Hill everyone bought in to everything Coach Hill tried to do, but as soon as there was a bump in the road, the players quickly grew tired of his micromanaging style of coaching. I was told Shaq covered up a great deal of these problems players would have had with Coach Hill because he was determined to make his mark on the league. Shaq was a team player, but he was revered by his teammates and his play earned their respect. Penny was much the same way, and when it came down to it, the team would have won regardless who was coaching on the sidelines and Shaq knew it. Shaq was just the first one vocal enough to realize they were out coached by the Rockets and recognized the Magic would not win a Championship with Coach Hill at the helm. According to my interiews, it all came crashing down on Coach Hill after a loss to the Hornets in Charlotte. I was told that at that time the players let their feelings get aired out. PLayers let Hill know they did not like his micromanagement and as I was told "a lot of things were said that still needs to be kept in that locker room. It was not pretty." Accordingly players felt that management would make an immediate change, but that did not happen. Only then did Penny become the focal point and voice of the players. and I quote, "Penny was our team leader, he was a good teammate, never went off and did his own thing like the papers said." (the rest of this interview with source and quotes will come later after I interview Penny).

Fast-forward to later in 1997 after Brian Hill was fired and then hired on as the Grizzlies new head coach. He was hired because many in the Grizzly organization felt he was a good developer of young talent and pointed to his W-L record while a coach of the Orlando Magic. Few then failed to realized that it was under the direction of Coach Matt Guokas who developed Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and the first year of Shaq. Few also recognized that until John Gabriel traded Scott Skiles Brian Hill refused to play Penny at the PG position over Skiles. John Gabriel at the time was so insistent on having Penny play the PG position he traded Skiles and a first round pick for a second round pick. Have you ever heard of such a lopsided trade? When Coach Hill became the coach of the Grizzlies his top priority was to develop Mike Bibby as the starting point guard. Hill made progress in his first season with the Grizzlies, but by the time he was fired, Hill had led the Grizzlies to worst record in the league and players were starting to voice concerns over his coaching style. This became such a problem that when Coach Hill was fired this is the statement made by then GM Stu Jackson. " ''I believe this team has the talent level to play better and the capability to compete harder and I felt that a coaching change was necessary in order to facilitate improvement,'' Jackson said at a news conference at the team's suburban Vancouver training facility." Once Hill was replaced players commented how they grew tired of Hill's micromanagement style and that it became a "mental strain" on every player during the game having to worry about checking the bench at each posession and worry they would be benched if they screwed up the called play. Does this sound familar???

Heading in to this season the Magic had already dealt with a situation just like the MIke Bibby situation in Vancouver. That situation was with Steve Francis. Sure Steve had warts, but he was traded because he and Coach "Brain" Hill could not co-exist. Steve needs to be in a free flowing offense that is up-tempo and possibly fast break style. Coach "Brain" Hill wants a methodical, slow, always look at the bench for a play call type of offense. After the trade last year and the Magic went 16-6 most felt that Brian Hill was the man to run the ship. But what few recognized until Coach Hill started to discuss it in training camp is that after the trade very few plays were called by the bench and a very small part of Coach Hill's play book was used at all after the trade because he could not intstruct and teach it in a short time. So the 16-6 record was largely a reflecion of players playing freely and using their talents to become a good team. That team took that ocnfidence in to this season. Even when the team started off 13-4 there were signs of problems. To his own detriment Brian Hill wanted perfection out of his team and continued to ride them hard during the winning times. Instead of focusing on the good thins that were accomplished Hill focused on the missed plays he called and continually has harped on the point guards to run the offsense the way he designed it and the way he calls it. The effect this seemingly had was a rapid decline in the production out of our point guards. The same thing that happened to Mike Bibby in Vancouver. During the 13-4 streak the Magic were getting 25 points and 7 rebounds from their point guard position. As the season has progressed, the point guard play has gotten worse and you can see each game the confusion while the PG's have to constantly look over to the bench for a play. Then to make maters worse, Brian Hill magnifies areas of the game he feels are misstakes and berates and chastizes players in the game and you can bet in the locker room as well. there has been several visible episodes on the Magic sidelines this season where Brian Hill has displayed is lack of self controll and his Napoleon/Tryant overbearing personality that makes the most Magic fans sick. If that is the toll his antics have taken just on the common fan, immagine what it has done to the players he is trying to coach.

As History is sure to repeat itself, the problems on this Magic team will not easily be solved. The biggest problem is how the hands are tied in the front office. The Magic are doing their best to secure a new arena and firing Brian Hill at any point until the deal gets done could posibly be a blow hard to recover from. The other part to the equation is the Magic will need a fall guy and unfortunately I can already hear the drums beating on Otis Smith. Smith has done a fantastic job assembling talent and managing the cap, the problem is there has to be a neck to choke and the RDV family will refuse to choke the neck of Brian Hill. IT comes down to what can be done. Does Otis trade players he once had a lot of faith in just to get Brian Hill to play the players he really want to see more court time? It seems like this is one of the few answers to the many problems. the best case scenario is that Brian Hill recognizes that his return to the Magic is not working out and that he has lost the players. If he can be a man and go to RDV and then ask to be moved in to the front office that would be the best thing. Even the best coaches realize when they are losing their team. Just this season Pat Riley stepped aside for this reason and disguised it behind medical attention that he needed. Everything can always be handled in a professional manner when all sides see where the problems are. But I think in this case, like in so many other times in Brian Hill's life he has blinders on and does not see he is more of the problem than the players are. Players hate to be micromanaged. Players like to show their skill and play freely on the court atleast during some parts of the game. Otis is a former player and I am sure he has to recognize this.

While everyone around the internet is posting a new "Fire Brian Hill" thread. Hopefully we can all realize as Magic fans that this time around Firing Brian Hill will be a lot harder to do. This time around we need to hope that cooler heads will prevail and that in the best interest of the Magic Brian Hill will do what is best for the team. We all recognize that this year was not going to be "THE YEAR" the Magic regain their perch atop the NBA. This needs to be a time where we support our team regardless and give Otis the chance to finish the job this summer and complete the roster with the cap space he has preached about. Hopefully by then Coach Hill will come to his senses and try to become a better coach for the players he has and not try to be a coach everyone hates."

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