The Orlando Magic have zeroed in and found their next head coach in the form of a former assistant of Stan Van Gundy, who guided the organization to the 2009 NBA Finals. The Magic announced Wednesday morning they’ve hired former Charlotte Hornets’ head coach Steve Clifford to the same position with Orlando.
For Clifford, this will be his second go around with the Magic as he held an assistant role in Orlando from 2007-2012, one of the most successful stretches in team history. Clifford will be tasked with turning around an Orlando team that hasn’t won more than 35 games in the last two years under the watch of former lead man Frank Vogel, who was fired a day after the 2017-2018 season ended.
It’s no surprise that this would be a good fit between the Magic and former Charlotte bench boss, as Clifford did wonderful work during his five seasons with the Hornets. During his time in Charlotte, he was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month twice, and also finished fourth in NBA Coach of the Year voting in 2015-16, when he led the Hornets to a 48-34 season.
Clifford will now need to turnaround an Orlando squad that couldn’t find an identity on either side of the floor and has some big decisions to make heading into the NBA’s official offseason. One of those big decisions will be whether or not to hand forward Aaron Gordon a max contract deal coming off an injury-riddled season. Gordon played in 58 games, 57 of which he started, and averaged 17.6 points per game and also rallied 7.9 boards a contest.
Player development concerns have arisen with Clifford’s hiring, as the Hornets’ draft picks never really progressed during his watch. Orlando is ripe with young talent and Clifford will need to get the best out of his young players.