Over the next few weeks, members of OPP will debate various aspects of the Magic’s offseason in a rapid-fire Q&A session to show the wide range of opinions on the moves being made by the front office. This week, Mike and Zach discuss the hiring of Steve Clifford. Next week the crew will debate what the Magic should do on Draft night, and the following week we will dive into free agency.
Be sure to join the conversation below....
Was Steve Clifford the right choice?
Zach Oliver: I think he was. The Magic have had a lot of turnover with their coach over the past five years -- Clifford is the Magic’s fifth coach since their rebuild started -- and I think he brings in some much needed stability. That’s a big thing that this franchise has been searching for, and ultimately, I think is something that’s hinder them in really taking that next step in their rebuild. Add in Clifford’s familiarity with the organization, and the hire makes even more sense.
Mike Cali: That’s not a question that I can answer with a simple yes or no. With a coaching search that lasts nearly 50 days, it’s easy to speculate that perhaps Clifford wasn’t the first candidate the Magic offered the job to. I do like Clifford, and I appreciate the sentimental value of having a coach with a link to the 2009 glory days, but I’m not so convinced he is the right fit for a rebuilding team like the Magic. I think we know what the type of coach he is at this stage of his career. He did turn Charlotte around in one year and get them to the first round, but how much higher his ceiling goes beyond that, I’m not quite sure.
Who would you have rather seen the Magic hire or at least target as their top choice?
Zach Oliver: I don’t know if there’s a coach I would’ve preferred to see them hire. I thought from the moment he was let go by the Hornets the Magic needed to be in on Clifford. But, I will say someone like a Jay Wright from Villanova would’ve been extremely interesting. Having someone with NBA coaching experience, though, is going to prove very important for the franchise.
Mike Cali: We differ here, as well. I was all about the Magic hiring a coach with no NBA coaching experience, despite having seen the organization get burned by doing so with Jacque Vaughn. With a team that is pressing reset on another rebuild, I feel that having a coach that can develop with the team and be groomed while working in conjunction with the front office would have been beneficial for the Magic. I would have taken a gamble on one of the league’s highly regarded coaching prospects like Jerry Stackhouse, Nick Nurse or Ime Udoka. But Stackhouse was considered in-demand when the offseason began and he still doesn’t have a job in the NBA, so who know what happened there.
What do you like about Clifford?
Zach Oliver: He’s a no nonsense kind of coach. He’s going to hold his players accountable, and he’s going to really be able to stress the teach the importance of strong play on the defensive end of the floor. That’s something the organization needed with Frank Vogel, but ultimately never got that, in large part to Vogel not always holding his players accountable. I don’t think that will be an issue with Clifford, and that’s going to be huge moving forward.
Mike Cali: That he helped the Hornets build a defensive identity, having finished in the top 10 in defensive rating in three of his five seasons as head coach, and that his teams showed great disciplined on the offensive end, having the fewest turnovers in the league in Clifford’s first four years. The Magic need help in both of those areas….though a rim protector, pick-and-roll defenders and a starting point guard who can both distribute and keep opponents in front of them on the defensive end will make Clifford’s life a lot easier.
What concerns you about Clifford?
Zach Olver: I think the biggest thing that concerns me is some of the struggles his Hornets teams had. They were never really consistent, and they kind of lost some of the strong play they were receiving from Kemba Walker. He’ll need to find that happy medium to get the consistent play that the team needs.
Mike Cali: Player development. I know Kemba Walker improved his shooting and developed into an All-Star under Clifford, but the Magic don’t have a Kemba Walker-like talent on the roster at this time. Part of the reason I preferred a younger, up-and-coming coaching prospect for this particular team is because, a former player like Stackhouse who isn’t far removed from their playing days, might relate to younger players somewhat better and wouldn’t have the win-now mentality that a coach who was just fired a few short weeks ago might have beneath the surface. Those factors could ultimately hinder patience and development.
What would be considered a successful season next year for Clifford?
Zach Oliver: I think a successful season would be seeing some stability, and consistency, especially on the defensive end. The Magic have some players who project as very good defensive players, but haven’t fully tapped into that yet. If they can play some meaningful games come late February, and into March, that would be a huge step forward as well after being out of contention by the trade deadline seemingly every one of the last six years.
Mike Cali: I’m anticipating only marginal improvement in regard to the Magic’s record next season. Maybe with some luck in the draft they get to 34 wins or so. All I would like to see is baby steps in the progression of a team that has failed to dig itself out of the hole they were put in back in 2012. Six years later and the Magic are somehow buried deeper and the shovel is now in Clifford’s hands. To be considered a successful season, Clifford must help the Magic make a jump in offensive and defensive efficiency, show improvement in their pick-and-roll defense and protecting the ball, and prove that the team is finally on the right track for the future.