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Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan’s 2018 Exec of the Year Acceptance Speech

The whiteboard was right

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In April 2017, the Orlando Magic signed Argentine shooting guard Patricio Garino for the remainder of the 2016–17 season. Garino’s agent took a picture of his client signing the deal and accidentally captured a list of potential Magic trade and free-agent targets written on a whiteboard.

It was thought to be the nadir of Rob Hennigan’s time as Orlando general manager. Not only had the list leaked, but the names did little to inspire.

A little over a year later, Hennigan accepted the Executive of the Year Award. Here is his acceptance speech.

Wow … heavier than I thought. I didn’t drop it! First off, I just want to thank Rich DeVos, everyone in the RDV, and the Orlando Magic family. And I truly mean family. Families go through hard times, they stick together through the fire, through the adversity, and it just makes the good times that much sweeter. Thanks also to Frank Vogel. You know, I’m just the guy working at the art-supply store. I sell brushes. Frank is the painter. And this season was his “Guernica,” so I share this with you, Frank. This award is half yours.

It started with a list [laughs]. Which I’m sure you all saw [more laughter]. Seriously though, it started with a dream, and to dream you first have to sleep. I went to bed one night, back in 2017, and when I woke up I had this word in my head: “hybrid.” I turned to my wife Marissa and said, “hybrid,” but what I should have said was … family. And not because I was talking to my wife. It’s because I realized how we were going to make the Orlando Magic the premier professional basketball organization in all of Central Florida. Family.

What makes an Orlando Magic player? What qualities do you need to have to stand next to legends like Anfernee Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Rashard Lewis, J.J. Redick, Tracy McGrady, and Grant Hill back before ankle injuries stopped Grant from standing on a regular basis? You have to know the culture, the fans. The organization’s DNA has to be in you, like one of those engineers from Prometheus.

So we made the famous list. No, Patty Garino’s agent was not supposed to take a picture of our target list. And my concept of hybrids — players who could play [tears up] multiple positions — was not supposed to be public. Not yet. You have to remember: Back in 2017, hybrids … that was just not something that happened. Point guards brought the ball up, shooting guards shot it, small forwards were smaller than power forwards, and you built your team around your center. That’s how every team played. That’s why we had so many centers. Sure, Aaron Gordon was powerful, but he was smaller than some of our power forwards. So he played small forward.

The idea that one player could play multiple positions, or that a big player — or “big,” to use a front-office term — could “spread” or “space” the floor was so progressive for the time. I think I was, subconsciously, looking for a sense of safety. And so when I started to write down the names of players who could bring this avant-garde symphony of chaos to life, it was like the music was atonal coming through me and it was singing, “Go with what you know.” Go with Magic family.

So that’s why I wrote down Moe Harkless’s name. That’s why I wrote down Tobias Harris. It was time for them to come home. That’s why I wrote down Dario Saric, who we originally swapped for Elfrid Payton, back on draft night of 2014. That’s why we went after Ersan Ilyasova. Close your eyes, think of Magic basketball. What do you see?

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

That’s why I wrote down Jeff Green’s name. Jeff was already on the team, of course, but when I conceived of the Hybrid Theory, it was like he was a whole new player. Jeff Green 2.0. There were guys we signed or dealt for who, much to my surprise, had never played for the Magic, but it felt like they should have, so we made it happen; players like Luke Babbitt, Anthony Tolliver, Derrick Williams, and Al-Farouq Aminu. And that’s why [sighs, moves head away from microphone, takes out Magic-branded handkerchief and dabs eyes] I wrote down Chandler Parsons’s name. Chandler wasn’t a former Magic player, but he was all Orlando.

Harris, Green, Ilyasova, Parsons, Saric, Aminu, Babbitt, Williams, Tolliver. Moe Harkless. Sweet, sweet Mario. This team went 4–78. We are so far over the cap, the NBA has created a new luxury tax called the DeVos Bracket. We have so few picks, the person we will be able to draft hasn’t even been born yet. But sporting achievement isn’t just judged by wins and losses, and I’d like to thank my peers — R.C. Buford, Bob Myers, Masai Ujiri — past winners, some would say benefactors of my actions … I’d like to thank them for voting me as 2018 Executive of the Year. I’ve heard some people say it was the least they could do. But I’d like to think they recognized risk. I’d like to think they saw me, and saw a family man.