A year of change continues for the Orlando Magic.
Steve Clifford and the Magic have mutually agreed to part ways, the team announced on Saturday.
“We would like to thank Steve for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman 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.”
Clifford, a former Orlando assistant under Stan Van Gundy during the Magic’s glory days, was named Magic coach in May of 2018, bringing stability to an organization that since 2012 had gone from Van Gundy to Jacque Vaughn to Scott Skiles to Frank Vogel. Clifford spent three seasons with the Magic, going 96-131. In his first season with the team, he helped guide them back to the postseason after going 42-40 to win the Southeast Division title and end Orlando’s seven-year playoff drought. It was a 17-win improvement from the previous season under Vogel, the top turnaround in the league that season.
The Magic again made the postseason the next season, falling in five games in the first round for the second consecutive year.
The Magic got off to a 4-0 start during the 2020-2021 season before injury derailed the season, leading to a fire sale that broke up the long time core of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. The Magic finished with a 21-51 record, third worst in the league.
Clifford was entering the final year of his deal, and seemed to be safe for the time being after seemingly squeezing every drop of an injury-ravaged Magic team last season.
But based on Weltman’s comment, the Magic’s rebuild doesn’t align with the plans of the 59-year-old Clifford, who could have been looking for an extension to avoid lame-duck status in his final year, or who simply could be looking for an opportunity with a contender.
Player development will be the primary objective for the next Magic coach, and that has not exactly been Clifford’s biggest strength. But he did bring discipline and a defensive mindset to the Magic that helped temporarily eliminate their post-Dwight Howard futility.
“I would like to thank the DeVos family, Magic leadership and the entire staff, and certainly wish everyone well,” Clifford said in a statement. “It’s been an honor and privilege to coach this team in this community.”