BOSTON — Rob Hennigan, the Orlando Magic's first-year general manager, can appear more than a bit analytical to outsiders. For example, when he's asked about the decisions he makes, he often describes taking an "emotion-neutral" perspective or employing a "process-driven" approach.
But Friday night's matchup between the Magic and the Boston Celtics at TD Garden almost certainly will stir Hennigan's sentimental side.
After all, it will be one more step in a journey that started just 45 miles away, in the basement of his family's home in Worcester, Mass. His dad nailed a basketball hoop to the basement's wall when he was just 6 or 7 years old, and Hennigan would spend hours there, developing a love for basketball.
"I had three sisters, and they never wanted to play with me, so I would just go down to the basement and shoot baskets," he said. "It was a pretty tight basement. That's probably why I have a flat jump shot."
Hennigan grew up rooting for all New England pro sports teams, including the Celtics.
He attended a total of 10 to 15 Celtics games — first at the old Boston Garden, then at TD Garden — before he started school at Emerson College in downtown Boston.
And, tonight, he'll return to TD Garden as the general manager of an NBA team.
His parents, Bob and Lynn, will attend the game. So will his wife, Marissa, and his mother-in-law, Sharon. And so will his three sisters: Kate, Anne and Elizabeth.
All of them helped him reach this point.
"I think it'll be surreal in a good way, but I think it'll be a lot of fun," he said. "It'll be exciting. In some ways, it's just another game and it's business as usual. In another way, it'll be a unique experience."
Those hours shooting baskets in the basement helped him develop into a good high-school player and superb small-college player. Hennigan helped Saint John's High win a state championship and was a three-time Great Northeast Athletic Conference co-player of the year while at Emerson.
After college, he worked for the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Hennigan, who at 30 years old is the youngest current GM in the NBA, already has made critical decisions since he became the Magic's new GM in mid-June.
He led the team's search for a new coach — a search that ended with the hiring of Jacque Vaughn. Hennigan decided not to re-sign fan favorite Ryan Anderson. He dealt away superstar Dwight Howard, who had requested a trade.
Hennigan said he loves the job, especially working with the people around him, but he also acknowledges that there are some frustrating moments.
"The most frustrating thing is, obviously, we'd like to win more games," he said. "But we're believing in what we're doing, and we're confident that we're going to get to that point in the future."
A few hours after he uttered that sentence, Hennigan and the Magic were hit with another disheartening development: Starting power forward Glen Davis fractured a bone in his left foot during Wednesday's game against the New York Knicks.
Through it all, though, Hennigan has maintained a sense of humor.
Sometimes his father will kid him and ask for names of players he should scout in the Boston area.
"You're just a regional scouting intern for now," the Magic's GM typically tells his dad. "So just focus on following the box scores."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times