25 May 2007

Mike Bianchi Calls Out Otis Smith

The Otis Smith Era began only yesterday, yet he's already facing criticism from at least one journalist: Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel.

I don't always agree with Bianchi. Consider this column he wrote defending Brian Hill, in which he asserted "[t]he game's greatest coaches would be .500 with this roster," which I think is a totally bogus statement. If we had, say, Jerry Sloan coaching this team last season, we only would have won one more game? Please.

But this post does not concern that old column. Rather, it concerns this one, published today, in which Bianchi concludes not only that it is now up to GM Otis Smith to improve the Magic, but also that Smith should be fired if the club doesn't show significant improvement. In other words, Bianchi wrote today what I wrote yesterday, only he did so far more eloquently. Some excerpts:

Let there be no doubt about it, this is now Otis Smith's team. And the clock is ticking, the fuse is burning and the keg of dynamite is now sitting underneath a cartoon panel that says, "GM's Job Security."
Make no mistake about it, the firing of Coach Brian Hill was all Smith's idea. Sure, [Magic President and CEO Bob] Vander Weide had to sign off on it, but he signed off because Smith was adamant the Magic needed to move in another direction. Smith is the one who travels to nearly every game with the team. He's the one who talks to the players and deals with the coaches. He's the one who didn't like the way Hill was coaching and developing this roster.
Hill has received most of the public criticism over the last two years, but Smith should be held just as accountable for the Magic's mediocrity. Smith claims Hill didn't make the most of the talent he was given. I would argue Smith has an inflated opinion of the talent he gave Hill.
That last excerpt is particularly striking to me because I've always felt that the Magic weren't as talented as Smith was boasting. I also believe that it's the responsibility of the GM, not the coach, to provide the team with talent. Smith didn't quite do that this season: The Magic went 5-14 from January 12th, a loss to the Lakers in L.A., to February 22nd, the day of the trade deadline. That stretch dropped our record from 22-14 (.611) to 27-28 (.491), yet Otis Smith said "I like our team," and refused to make a deal. To be fair, hardly any teams made moves at the deadline, so Smith wasn't alone in his inaction. The whole lack of movement at the deadline disgusted Bill Simmons enough that he wrote a column, entitled Welcome to the No Balls Association, in which he graded each team and how their lack of activity hurt them. The whole piece is hilarious and worth reading, but here's what Bill had to say about the Magic:
ORLANDO: F-minus-minus-minus
I like Otis Smith's philosophy here: We don't own a 2007 No. 1 pick, our team is sinking like a stone, we have Grant Hill's expiring deal ($16.9 million) to move for an asset and save our season, we desperately need scoring ... screw it, let's stand pat. Hey, that's one way to keep your job -- just don't do anything. How can the Magic fire you if you don't do anything? I'd like to see how long Otis could keep this strategy going -- Orlando's owners probably won't catch on for another 2-3 years.
It's eerie how life imitates art in this instance.

The folks over at FireBrianHill got their wish fulfilled. Maybe the hypothetical owners of FireOtisSmith will get theirs next.

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