Ball Don't Lie

Shaquille O’Neal goes to bat, rudely, for a former teammate and coach to get the top job in Orlando

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Brian Shaw and Shaquille O'Neal, back when Twitter didn't exist. (Getty Images)

We can glean two things from a tweet that Shaquille O'Neal sent out on Sunday. First? Shaq can't spell. Secondly, he's not a fan of the Orlando Magic passing over candidates Brian Shaw and Michael Malone for their still-open head coaching slot. Also, he can't spell — that's still only two things to glean, but worth mentioning a second time.

As gleaned through the Orlando Sentinel, it's apparent that the former Magic center (and recent doctorate recipient) is no great fan of former journeyman NBA guard Jacque Vaughn as the rumored next head coach of the Orlando Magic. Gleaned off, Shaq took to Twitter to register his discomfort, in less than gleaning tones. Take a look:

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(Courtesy twitter.com/Shaq)

It might be hard for O'Neal, and potentially Orlando Magic fans, to get past the idea that Jacque Vaughn isn't still looking for a one-year deal at the veteran's minimum to "provide heady leadership" as a team's fourth guard. Vaughn retired after the 2008-09 NBA season, but in comparison to Shaw and Malone his two-year run as Spurs assistant coach seems awfully slight.

Then again, experience is often no match for talent, and Vaughn was thought of as NBA head coaching material even before he'd played a single game after being drafted by the Utah Jazz all the way back in 1997. Then we remember that O'Neal, as is the case with about 89 percent of those that work within the NBA's structure, has history with the particulars here.

He was a teammate of Shaw's in Orlando for two seasons between 1994 and 1996, and played with Shaw in Los Angeles between 1999 and Shaw's retirement in 2003 — finishing his run with the Phil Jackson disciple during Shaq's final year as a Laker and Shaw's first season as an assistant coach under Phil in 2003-04. As one half of the lob-heavy "ShawShaq Redemption" in Orlando and one part of the Lakers' triangle offense in Los Angeles (a scheme that Shaq was an expert in executing, despite his limited gifts as a shooter and penetrator at that point in his career), O'Neal grew to appreciate Shaw's basketball IQ.

And clearly, in his one year spent in Cleveland during 2009-10, O'Neal grew to appreciate the work of defensive-minded assistant coach Malone, who was then an assistant with the Cavaliers under current Laker coach Mike Brown. Brown, of course, is the head man who was chosen to lead Los Angeles in 2011 after the Lakers apparently tired of all things that reminded of Phil Jackson's run as a four-time champion in Los Angeles. As a result of these shakeups — Brown was fired in Cleveland following 2009-10, Jackson was encouraged to walk away in 2011 — Malone spent 2011-12 assisting in Golden State, and Shaw took his talents to Indiana.

Shaq, in the interim, took his voice to the cable airwaves and Twitter, where he has over 6 million followers and the ears of those of us that are desperately trying to find fodder during the doldrums of the offseason. How much of that last part was out loud?

We appreciate the big fella looking out for his guys, and for a relatively (outside of an NBA junkie's realm) obscure assistant in Malone to get the positive callout from O'Neal is a nice gesture on Shaq's part. In fact, the whole thing would have been nice had he not dissed Jacque Vaughn along the way.

While misspelling his name.

The truth is that Howard is going to have a tough time winning in Orlando regardless of who new Magic GM Rob Hennigan brings in. We'd feel a little better initially if the Magic did hire Shaw or Malone, two clear head coaching talents that have yet to run a team of their own, but even if Vaughn harbors the same gifts this Magic team is going to be a rebuilding mess if Dwight is traded, and a middling group at best if the Magic hang on to their disgruntled center.

Nobody should be surprised in the slightest if Vaughn is head coaching material along the same lines as a Shaw or Malone. Despite lacking NBA size or speed during his run he still managed to hang around for 943 career games while utilizing the sort of guile and savvy you're used to from the type of player that goes from the end of bench in warm-ups to the head of the bench in a suit and tie. He's lacking for experience with just two years behind him as Spurs assistant, but that probably shouldn't be a deciding factor. Talent should be.

Shaq's newfound interest in keeping Dwight Howard in Orlando is an odd one, even considering O'Neal's continued residence in the city, because of his contentious relationship with both the franchise and the team's franchise center. Taking another odd and Shaq-ian turn at this point just seems expected, in a Shaq-ish way.

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