Jacque Vaughn passed his first test as coach of the Orlando Magic.
During his introductory press conference Monday afternoon, he showed so much charisma that it left one of his players wishing that training camp had started already.
"Sometimes life, it's about timing, it's about luck," Vaughn told a crowd that included Magic big man Glen Davis. "But sometimes you have to stick your neck out a little bit and take a leap of faith, create your own destiny. There's nothing wrong with that.
"The DeVos family is doing that today: taking a leap of faith in my ability to relate to guys, to communicate with individuals, to get a group of men to gather together for a common goal, to have resolve, to compete. I'm proud to be a part of that. Today, the destiny starts, and I'm thankful to be the head coach of the Orlando Magic."
Davis recalled feeling goosebumps.
"While he was up there on that podium, he was motivating," Davis said. "As a player, you want to hear that. You want to hear your coach motivating you to give your max. You want to hear your coach ask you to be something bigger than yourself."
Magic CEO Alex Martins confided to a reporter afterward that Vaughn has "it" — a special, indescribable quality.
Vaughn will need that "it," especially if, as expected, the Magic trade Dwight Howard and usher in a rebuilding period.
Vaughn, 37, faced multiple questions about Howard's uncertain future and deflected them deftly.
He said he plans to reach out to every player on the team's roster, including Howard, over the next week, preferably with face-to-face meetings. He left open the possibility that he will travel to southern California to meet with the disgruntled All-Star center.
Asked whether he wants to coach Howard, Vaughn responded, "I want to coach guys who want to be coached, who want to be great and who want to be here. I'm a simple person, and for me, it boils down to simple things."
With Magic Chairman Dan DeVos, GM Rob Hennigan and Martins flanking him on the dais, Vaughn opened by speaking about the three coaches who influenced him most.
Roy Williams, his coach at Kansas, taught him how to "believe in guys and care for them more than when they're just on the basketball floor." Jerry Sloan, his coach with the Utah Jazz, fostered his "will to compete" and made him more consistent. Gregg Popovich, whom he played for and coached for with the San Antonio Spurs, gave him his first coaching opportunity.
The Magic ultimately interviewed six candidates, and only two of them — Vaughn and Philadelphia 76ers associate head coach Michael Curry — eventually met with members of the DeVos family in Michigan.
Martins lauded Vaughn as a "great leader."
Vaughn succeeds Stan Van Gundy, who guided the Magic to a 259-135 regular-season record (for a franchise-best .657 winning percentage) over five seasons.
Van Gundy arguably did his best coaching job last season. After Howard underwent season-ending surgery on his back, no one faulted the Magic for a lack of effort.
Vaughn's roster could be even more outmatched when, and if, Howard is traded.
Asked about his ability to relate to players, Vaughn answered, "We've been successful here, and I will never underestimate that and I'll give credit to the success that came before me. Some would say I'm inexperienced. I played 12 years and I've coached two years. Would my résumé look a little nicer if it said '14 years of experience?' Maybe so.
"But I've sat in the seats that the guys that I'll coach have sat in. I'll be able to relate to their personal, physical, mental stresses that they come across every day, because I've been there. And I think they'll relate to that and they'll appreciate that. And they'll know that I'm fighting for them and that I believe in them, and that'll be my approach."
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times