Orlando Magic and Steve Clifford agree to separate as head coach leaves franchise after three seasons | NBA News
Steve Clifford and the Orlando Magic have taken some time after the season to rest, recover and look to the future.
And after a few weeks, they decided the fit was no longer good.
The Orlando rebuilding plan will no longer include Clifford, after he and the Magic reached a deal on Saturday to end his three years with the club. Magic chairman Jeff Weltman stressed that it was a mutual decision and that he respected Clifford for his ability to “assess where he is in his career.”
“Obviously, we have repositioned our team,” said Weltman. “And so, there has to be a roster. There has to be a roster in everything you do in this league. And if there is no roster, it will undermine everything.”
This alignment clearly didn’t seem to be there. Weltman has indicated that Clifford – who will be 60 before the start of next season – has decided he’s the wrong coach to lead the Magic through what could be serious growing challenges with a young squad.
“The ‘why’ is pretty straightforward here: the alignment,” Weltman said. “And if ‘Cliff’ is wondering if our team’s positioning somehow matches his own career positioning, then he’s probably not the right guy at this point. look in the mirror and have these conversations with himself because I don’t think a lot of people can do that. “
Orlando becomes the third current NBA coach, following Brad Stevens’ promotion to president of the Boston Celtics and Portland’s decision on Friday to seek a new coach after Terry Stotts held the position for nine seasons.
The upcoming jobs haven’t affected Magic’s schedule, Weltman said. He also didn’t say if the team had a target date for a hire. For now, the assistant coaches – a group that includes Ty Corbin, Steve Hetzel, and Pat Delany – remain in place, and it wouldn’t be surprising if some had at least one meeting with the Magic during the interview process.
Clifford was 96-131 over those three seasons, although that record is a bit misleading considering the number of injuries the team has suffered this season. Orlando went to the playoffs in 2019 and 2020 under Clifford, their first playoff trips since ending a six-game streak in 2012.
“Both sides wanted to do this the right way for each other, and I think we came to that conclusion as quickly as possible,” Weltman said.
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But this season has been trying in so many ways. Injuries drained the Magic, then the core of the squad – all-star striker Nikola Vucevic, guard Evan Fournier and forward Aaron Gordon – were all moved to the trade deadline as Orlando became younger and stored draft picks for the rebuild.
“It’s the toughest season I’ve ever had,” said Clifford at the end of the season.
Orlando was 21-51 this season, and Clifford missed a few games towards the end of the season after testing positive for COVID-19. He had been vaccinated just as the positive test results returned, was asymptomatic and returned for the last days of the season.
Clifford has dealt with health issues in the past. He missed 21 games in the 2017-18 season while coaching at Charlotte after problems caused by lack of sleep arose, and he left a game in Minnesota in March 2020 after feeling dizzy caused by dehydration.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to coach this team in this community,” said Clifford.
After the trades, the Magic have gone with young and different rosters over the last six weeks of the season and will likely have two lottery picks in this year’s draft. But the task of forming a winner from this group will fall to another coach.
The next coach will be Orlando’s sixth since February 2015, after Jacque Vaughn, James Borrego, Scott Skiles, Frank Vogel and Clifford.
“We won’t leave any stone unturned, I can tell you that,” Weltman said.