Magic hire Steve Clifford as head coach

Clifford didn’t spend long unemployed after being dismissed by the Hornets.


Steve Clifford is back in the NBA. The Orlando Magic have hired the 56-year-old as their next head coach, the team announced.

Clifford served as the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets for five seasons before being let go in April. He led Charlotte to two playoff appearances over that time, including a 48-win season in 2016. The franchise had only made the playoffs once in its previous nine years before Clifford was hired.

The Magic made the move to hire Clifford after firing Frank Vogel, who failed to win more than 29 games during his two seasons in charge. It’s now been six straight seasons that Orlando has missed the playoffs.

Clifford served as an assistant for the Magic from 2007-2012 under Stan Van Gundy. That was a golden era for the franchise, as Dwight Howard powered a playoff run every year during that stretch, including a trip to the 2009 NBA Finals.

Clifford comes with a reputation as one of the best defensive minds in the game. Charlotte jumped from dead last in defensive efficiency to No. 6 overall during his first season in charge.

The veteran head coach stepped away from the Hornets for six weeks last season as he dealt with severe headaches that caused sleep deprivation. He returned to lead the Hornets to a 36-win campaign for the second straight season before being fired.

Jack Benoit