Steve Clifford, who helped lead the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals as an assistant coach and has more than 30 years of coaching experience at the NBA and collegiate level, has been named the team’s head coach, President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman announced today. Clifford becomes the 14th head coach in franchise history.
Clifford returns to Orlando after spending the previous five seasons (2013-18) as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets. He was named Charlotte’s head coach on May 29, 2013 and compiled a record of 196-214 (.478). Clifford led Charlotte to the NBA Playoffs in two of his first four seasons at the helm after the team qualified for the postseason just once in the previous 10 seasons.
“We are very excited to welcome Steve (Clifford) back into the Magic family,” Weltman said. “Steve is widely regarded throughout the NBA community as an elite coach and developer of players at all stages. His teams have always been disciplined and prepared, and have embraced the concept of playing for each other.”
During Clifford’s first season in Charlotte (2013-14), the team saw a 22-win improvement from the previous season, finishing 43-39 and earning a playoff berth for the first time since 2009-10. In 2015-16, the Hornets went 48-34, their best record since 1999-2000. Charlotte again made the NBA Playoffs, eventually falling in seven games to third-seeded Miami.
A native of Island Falls, Maine, Clifford arrived in Charlotte after spending the 2012-13 season as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, first under Mike Brown and then under Mike D’Antoni.
Prior to the Lakers, Clifford spent five seasons as an assistant coach with Orlando from 2007-12. As a member of Stan Van Gundy’s staff, he helped the Magic to a 259-135 record (.657) and five straight playoff appearances, including a trip to the 2009 NBA Finals. The team won 50 games or more in four straight seasons from 2007-11, winning three consecutive Southeast Division titles (2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10).
Before going to Orlando, Clifford spent four seasons as an assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy with the Houston Rockets from 2003-07. He began his NBA career with the New York Knicks, serving as the team’s advance scout in 2000-01 before moving to the bench as an assistant coach from 2001-03.
Prior to the NBA, Clifford spent 15 years coaching at the collegiate level, including four years as head coach at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York from 1995-99. He posted a record of 86-36 (.705) at Adelphi, leading the school to four straight 20-win seasons, becoming the first coach in school history to record consecutive 20-win campaigns, and four straight appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament. His winning percentage remains the second-best of the 12 head coaches in the program’s 65-year history.
Clifford began his college coaching career at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, where he spent four seasons as an assistant coach. He then served as an assistant coach for one year at Fairfield University, four seasons at Boston University and one season at Siena University before becoming the head coach at Adelphi. Clifford also spent one season as an assistant coach at East Carolina University in 1999-2000 before moving to the NBA.
Clifford’s first coaching experience came at Woodland High School in Maine, where he coached for two seasons after graduating from the University of Maine at Farmington with a degree in special education. He played four years for the Beavers, being named Best Defensive Player in his final two seasons while serving as team captain.