Friday , Apr , 06 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

No playoffs could mean Hill’s exit in Orlando

(Sports Network) – Expect things to be a lot different in Orlando next season
if the club fails to reach the postseason this year.

Specifically, you can expect head coach Brian Hill to be looking for new work.

Orlando was in good shape early in the season, standing 12-4 after November
and, even after separate three-game and four-game losing skids in December,
was 22-14 as of January 11.

It all started to go wrong from there as the Magic went on to lose five
straight and eight of their next nine. A 4-9 February did little to help
things as Orlando later watched Miami get hot, pass them in the standings, and
then take over the division.

To make matters worse, Orlando has dug itself such a hole there is little
chance the club can catch the Wizards for second in the Southeast Division. In
the standings, Orlando is 5 1/2 games behind Washington, which is now without
its two best players in Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler.

So, with seven games left to play, the Magic need to just worry about making
the postseason. The club is currently eighth overall in the East, a game and a
half ahead of ninth-place Indiana. Mathematically, four teams still stand a
chance of catching Orlando in the standings, while the Magic themselves are
just 1 1/2 games back of seventh-place New Jersey.

However, if Orlando fails to qualify for the playoffs, the first to go will
most certainly be Hill.

Orlando general manager Otis Smith was been disputing claims since February
that Hill was going to be replaced. Smith told the Orlando Sentinel that month
that Hill would be back next year and would finish out his contract.

Hill is signed through the 2008-09 season.

However, Smith again had to do damage control when he was forced to deny a
brief magazine report that his players want Hill replaced.

“It’s not true,” Smith told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday.

Reports have also said that Hill has a poor relationship with superstar Dwight
Howard, something else Smith has had to deny.

Smith’s words mean little if Orlando fails to play past April 18, the end of
its regular season. And, if even a dash of any of the reports are true, Hill
will most certainly be gone at season’s end.

This holds very true if Hill’s relationship with Howard is indeed a poor one.
Howard is set to be the face of the franchise for some time, and keeping
around a coach he is not fond of will do little to continue his rapid growth
in the league.

Howard is leading the club in points (17.5) and rebounds (12.3) and has been a
force all year long for the club, making his first All-Star team. He has led
for tied for the club lead in scoring a team-best 31 times this season.