The first player Jacque Vaughn likely talked to as he introduced himself to his new team was the only player at Amway Center on Monday afternoon. Glen Davis was hanging around the back of the press conference and met with Vaughn afterward. Davis snuck out before the majority of the media could talk with him, but he spoke with John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com and gave a ringing endorsement for the new coach.
There was a fair amount of skepticism about Vaughn entering the hire. His name was not quite as "sexy" as Brian Shaw or Michael Malone's. That is what many fans wanted, maybe with an eye of still keeping Dwight Howard in the fold. Vaughn certainly was not on the initial list many anticipated. Vaughn, though, proved himself in interviews with Rob Hennigan and the DeVos family.
Fans remained skeptical until finally meeting Vaughn for the first time. Vaughn came across very perceptive and driven. He came across as someone who would stay very even and inspire his players in a manner so different than Stan Van Gundy. Whether he has as much success as his predecessor is an issue for a little further on down the road.
The reviews from San Antonio all said the same thing though. Players want to play hard for Vaughn and are receptive to his teachings. Orlando wanted someone who could relate to players and it appears they got him.
Now he has to prove himself to the players that will play for him. Those reviews will only come as the season goes on.
If first impressions mean anything, Vaughn's first impression on Glen Davis was an extremely strong one. Davis sounded ready to play in his conversation with John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, and ready to go to war for Vaughn.
"Jacque's like a Doc Rivers, who played the game at a high level and was successful," Davis said moments after embracing Vaughn on the Magic's practice court, Denton reported. "While (Vaughn) was up there on that podium motivating, you want to hear that as a player. You want to hear your coach motivating you to give your max. You want to hear your coach asking you to be bigger than yourself. That's what it's all about."
The comparisons to Doc Rivers were thrown out pretty quickly. After all, in 1999 the Magic hired a completely inexperienced 37-year-old Rivers and he became a motivator that got a scrappy group of players in the Heart and Hustle year to miraculously finish 41-41. He never could get the team over the top and did not realize his full coaching potential until the Celtics delivered him a trio of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Now he is widely considered the best coach in the NBA. Certainly one players want to play for.
The Magic are hoping Vaughn will develop into that coach.
Davis will be one of those players helping him develop. There is already strong leadership for whatever young players come to the roster. Davis, Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick are the presumptive captains now and have a wealth of game and big game experience to share with the new players for the Magic. Certainly it would make sense that Vaughn will rely on their leadership to get his message across, especially if the team is losing.
Davis though will be making the biggest transition.
Last year was the first time in Davis' career he has not made it out of the first round of the Playoffs. He commented after the Magic's elimination in Game Five in Indianapolis that he never wanted that feeling again. He wanted to be playing deep into May and would do what he needed to help the team get there. Davis has spent most of his summer in and around Orlando training for the 2013 season.
Davis had some issues early with Stan Van Gundy as he struggled to find his role. But he overcame those and found a fit as the season wore on, becoming a major contributor for the Magic.
This year will undoubtedly be a frustrating one for Davis and the Magic. Orlando is either going to be dealing with another season of the Dwight Howard drama or a season with a lot of losses. Neither one is what Davis signed up for when he agreed to a sign and trade last summer.
"We all know what was going on last season (with the Howard distractions). At the end of the day, it is what it is," Davis told Denton. "I am wrong (about Howard), but I haven't given up. Hopefully he can come back. Hopefully he can still remain here and finish what he’s started. I wish that for him because he's a great guy. We'll see how things work out and hopefully he'll make his decision and we can get on with the process."
Having a coach that the players believe in and want to play hard for and improve for despite all the losses will make the long road through 2013 a little bit more bearable.
Davis, for one, came away impressed with what he saw and heard from Vaughn during his meeting with him Monday after the press conference. Davis said he saw a lot of Doc Rivers in the way Vaughn spoke. And that bodes well for the Magic's decision to hire Vaughn.
Davis, the one player on the Magic's roster with championship experience, has bought into what Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn want to build.
"They're trying to build something here and that takes time. We can't worry about what we don't have. If guys don't want to be here then they don't have to be here. Guys who want to be here and are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the team, that's the kind of stuff that we want to be a part of," Davis said. "Me being a leader on this team, I'm going to stress that people know what we're here for -- and that’s to put the first banner up. All Rob tells me is believe in the greater good. He doesn't have to tell me anything else. I understand that because I've been in an organization where you had to dial in and do those things. I'm so excited and I wish we could start (training camp) tomorrow."