The Magic and third-year coach Steve Clifford have mutually agreed to “part ways,” the team announced in a Saturday news release. The separation has to do with the parties’ differing timeline of success for the team.
Clifford, 59, led the team to the NBA playoffs in each of his first two seasons — the first time since Orlando made the postseason since the 2011-12 season. The team failed to advance past the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in both years.
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“We would like to thank Steve for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” Jeff Weltman, president of basketball operations, said in a statement. “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.”
Said Clifford: “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.”
The Magic (21-51) had a promising start to the 2020-21 season, opening with a 6-0 record and becoming the league’s last remaining undefeated team. But multiple injuries to key starters (including season-enders for Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac) derailed their season. Orlando also traded All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, guard Evan Fournier and forward Aaron Gordon to multiple teams at the NBA trade deadline for future picks, ending any chance the team made the NBA playoffs for a third year.
According to an ESPN report, Clifford had several meetings with management that led both parties to the “mutual decision” to part ways.
Clifford ends his Magic tenure at 96-131 and two trips to the playoffs in three seasons. Orlando will begin a coaching search immediately, joining Portland and Boston in looking to fill head coaching vacancies.