<
>

Hill out as coach of the Magic

5/25/2007 - NBA Orlando Magic

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Brian Hill is out as the Orlando Magic's
coach after two consecutive losing seasons and a first-round sweep
in this year's playoffs.


It was unclear whether Hill was fired or resigned Wednesday,
with the team releasing a statement at night stating he would not
return as coach. The team said Hill would have the option to return
to the organization in another capacity.

"Brian's contributions to the Orlando Magic have been
tremendous," president Bob Vander Weide said in the statement.
"We appreciate everything Brian did for us as a head coach in
taking us to this point, and hope he decides to stay with the
organization."

In two stints with the Magic, Hill became the winningest coach
in team history. He took Orlando to its first playoff appearance in
four years this season.

"We will miss Brian's disciplined approach, game preparation
and attention to detail, and passion he displayed as our head
coach," general manager Otis Smith said in the statement. "We
look forward to taking the next step toward being a
championship-caliber team."

The Orlando Sentinel reported on its Web site Friday that former Seattle Supersonics coach Bob Hill had e-mailed Vander Weide to express his interest in the team's coaching vacancy.

The newspaper reported that Bob Hill, who isn't related to Brian Hill, is close with SuperSonics forward Rashard Lewis and might be able to woo the impending free agent to Orlando.

Bob Hill was an assistant on Brian Hill's staff in the 1993-94 season. Bob Hill has been a head coach of the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and, most recently, the SuperSonics. He was fired by the Sonics in April.

The Magic, which will have about $10-13 million available in cap room this summer, are looking for a scorer this offseason, the Sentinel reports.

The Magic finished 40-42 this season before being eliminated in
four games by the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs.


"This wasn't an easy decision by any stretch of the
imagination," Smith said Thursday. "It was something that kept me up
nights trying to figure out, 'Is this the right thing to do at this
time for this young basketball team?'"

The one thing Smith knows for sure? He's got a tall order for
Brian Hill's replacement.

"I believe we have one of the best sports franchises in the
country, so I think we should expect our team to win a
championship," Smith said. "Short-term expectations of the next
guy is to win a championship."

Brian Hill, 59, had a year left on his contract, along with
a team option for another.

Some fans have been upset Hill didn't give rookie J.J. Redick
and 7-footer Darko Milicic more prominent roles. Hill has also been
criticized for not helping All-Star Dwight Howard develop a better
offensive game since the former No. 1 overall pick was drafted out
of high school in 2004.

Brian Hill led the club in the 1990s to its greatest heights -- the NBA
Finals in 1995 and Eastern Conference championship a year later.
The Magic won consecutive Atlantic Division titles those years and
in '96 lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, the eventual
champs.

Orlando was one of the league's best franchises under Hill and
All-Stars Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway. But the Magic dumped
Hill with 33 games left in the 1996-97 season, a locker room coup
led by the now-long-gone Hardaway.

Orlando has still not gotten past the first round of the
playoffs since Hill left in 1997.

The Magic settled on Brian Hill's return in May 2005, reintroducing
him at a news conference with the "Welcome Back, Kotter" theme
music. But the arrangement didn't last long.

Orlando made it back to the playoffs this season, but Vander
Weide was unimpressed with their showing. Few expected the series
to be competitive, and it wasn't. Orlando lost each game by an
average of nine points.

Brian Hill coached the Memphis Grizzlies after his first stint with
Orlando, but never found the same success there. He inherited a
team that won just 14 games and went a combined 31-123 from
1997-2000, getting fired 22 games into the 1999-2000 season.

Hill is 298-315 overall as an NBA head coach and was 267-192
with Orlando. He was an assistant coach with the New Jersey Nets
and New Orleans Hornets between head coaching jobs with Orlando and
Memphis.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.