Frank Vogel leaned against a cinder block wall at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night and held court with a small group of reporters.
A little less than two years ago, this is something the Orlando Magic coach thought he would be doing here on a regular basis. And he thought he would be doing it as coach of the Knicks. That’s how good he felt about the team after he interviewed for their then-vacant coaching job in the summer of 2016.
“Yes,” Vogel said before the Magic’s 97-73 win over the Knicks. “I was surprised when I wasn’t.”
Vogel became the coach of the Magic shortly after he was passed over for the Knicks’ job. “I interviewed with Phil Jackson and Steve Mills, we had a good couple days together. They said they had one more person they wanted to talk to before they wrapped up the process, and they met with Jeff [Hornacek], and Jeff must’ve blown them away.
“And I think that was a good choice because Jeff’s a hell of a coach and he’s done a hell of a job under a difficult circumstance here.”
It’s hard to say which of the two teams is in more difficult circumstances.
Orlando entered Tuesday night’s game with the fourth-worst record in the NBA after losing 18 of its last 22. Its once high-flying offense has been nearly nonexistent over the past month. The Magic is 52-107 under Vogel and there have been numerous reports that the team will replace him.
Similarly, Hornacek is thought to be on the hot seat, despite having a year remaining on his contract. Jackson, who made the decision to hire him, is no longer with the team. With four games to go, the Knicks are tied for the NBA’s eighth-worst record and are likely looking at — at minimum — one more year of a rebuild as Kristaps Porzingis won’t be back from his knee injury until at least the middle of next season.
The Knicks scored a season-low 73 points and shot 33.9 percent. Orlando limited the Knicks to 28 points in the second half and won the season series 3-1.
Tim Hardaway led the Knicks with 16 points; Mario Hezonja led the Magic with 19.
Hornacek was asked if he was frustrated that the Knicks fell apart down the stretch and were outscored 29-12 in the final quarter. “You want to just keep playing. It’s still a game,” Hornacek said. “After the game, [former Utah coach] Jerry Sloan always said if you can look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, I did my best and we lost and it didn’t go well,’ then you can go home and go to sleep. But if the guys didn’t, that’s got to be on them. The season’s not over. We have a couple more home games.”
Notes & quotes: With the loss, the Knicks (27-51) are tied with the Bulls for the eighth-worst record in the league . . . Enes Kanter, who has missed the past two games because of back and wrist injuries, may not play again this season.