Magic part ways with head coach Steve Clifford after three seasons as team embarks on full rebuild

The Orlando Magic announced Saturday morning that the franchise is parting ways with head coach Steve Clifford. The decision was a mutual one as he wasn’t interested in coaching through a rebuild. Clifford spent three seasons with the Magic, and compiled a 96-131 record, while making the postseason two out of the three years he was there. 

“We would like to thank Steve for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said in the team’s press release. “We appreciate the many sacrifices he has made as our head coach and understand the timeline of our new path does not align with his goals as a head coach in our league.”

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Orlando finished this season with a 21-51 record, and 14th in the Eastern Conference, but that was largely due to the roster overhaul the Magic went through over the course of the season. At the trade deadline in March, Orlando dealt All-Star center Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls, Aaron Gordon to the Denver Nuggets and Evan Fournier to the Boston Celtics in exchange for young players and future draft picks. It resulted in a pivot by the franchise to blow up the current iteration of the team that had been bounced from the playoffs in two out of the past three seasons. It also meant that Clifford as head coach was no longer essential as he was brought in to get the Magic back to the playoffs.

“I would like to thank the DeVos family, Magic leadership and the entire staff, and certainly wish everyone well. It’s been an honor and privilege to coach this team in this community,” Clifford said.

Now that Orlando is focusing on the future and trying to see what it has in its young players with Cole Anthony, Chuma Okeke, RJ Hampton, Wendell Carter Jr. and Markelle Fultz, the franchise can bring in a new coach who is interested in helping develop this young roster going forward. Orlando is already interested in former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, per the New York Times’ Marc Stein. Stotts was let go by Portland on Friday after nine seasons with the franchise. Stotts should be a hot commodity for several head-coaching positions as his offensive-minded coaching style would entice several teams looking to improve for next season. 

Although Clifford’s time with the Magic was short, his three-year stint was the most successful period of time Orlando has had since Dwight Howard was on the team and Stan Van Gundy was head coach from 2007-12. Clifford got Orlando back to the postseason for the first time since 2012, and although the team never advanced past the first round in either of its two playoff appearances under him, it should still be considered a success given how bad the Magic were before Clifford arrived in Orlando. 

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