The 13 Orlando Magic players convened in guard Penny Hardaway's hotel suite in Minneapolis and one by one gave their thoughts on coach Brian Hill. They then took a formal vote, using parliamentary procedure, and unanimously decided the coach must go, the Orlando Sentinel reported yesterday.
Hardaway then called General Manager John Gabriel on a cellular phone. Less than a week later, Hill was fired.
"The purpose of the meeting wasn't to discuss how we should fire coach Hill," Hardaway said of the Feb. 13 vote. "But everyone had comments to make and they were all basically negative. We didn't like the offense we were running and we weren't comfortable with the defensive schemes."
Hill became the Magic's second coach before the 1993-94 season, replacing Matt Guokas. When his 3 1/2-year reign ended in February, he had a 191-104 record and had coached the Magic to three Eastern Conference finals and the NBA Finals once.
He spent the first part of the season dealing with injuries to three and sometimes four starters but still had the Magic on track for a playoff spot. But after the all-star break, the Magic went on a five-game losing streak.
Hardaway's desire for a coaching change may have grown at the All-Star Game in Cleveland, the Sentinel said. Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan needled Hardaway with facetious tales of how their coaches gave them proper superstar status by excusing them from day-of-game shoot-arounds and other team requirements.
Then there was Bulls star Scottie Pippen, who chided that Hardaway would never win under Hill.
"It was very common for an opposing player to tell us, Thanks to Brian Hill you guys are never going to win a championship,' " Hardaway said.
Other players said an argument between Hill and Brian Shaw during a timeout of a Feb. 12 loss against the Detroit Pistons angered players on the team, particularly Hardaway.
Team sources told the Sentinel that Hardaway grew more and more irritated and repeatedly punched one fist into his other hand during the argument.
"He treated us like a bunch of little kids," Hardaway said. "We expected him to act like a true professional and respect us like men, not go off the deep end."
The next day, Hardaway held the team meeting that would seal Hill's fate.