Former Orlando assistant Steve Clifford rejoined the Magic as their new head coach.
Clifford was introduced to the media on Wednesday after agreeing to a four-year deal with Orlando. He was an assistant to former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy for five seasons.
“I’ve had 18 great years in this league and I’ve enjoyed every year, but none more than the five years here,” Clifford said.
Clifford was fired by the Charlotte Hornets in April after a second consecutive 36-46 season, capping a five-year run. Clifford, 56, helped revive the franchise by taking the Hornets to the playoffs in 2014 and 2016 and left with a 196-214 record.
Clifford missed more than a month this season as a result of headaches caused by sleep deprivation. He and Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman both addressed the health issue Wednesday, indicating it is a thing of the past.
“Our doctors came away confident that Steve was OK,” Weltman said.
The Magic fired head coach Frank Vogel after he guided the team to 25-57 record in 2017-18 and a 54-110 mark in two seasons. Vogel previously coached the Indiana Pacers.
Orlando finished outside of the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. The team has changed coaches five times over the past seven years, a revolving door Weltman hopes ends with Clifford.
“I think it’s crucial,” Weltman said. “Fifth coach in seven years, it’s very important that we start to establish our identity and be able to build on something that doesn’t get turned over every season.
“I’m not betting on something that I don’t know. Steve Clifford has proven himself to be an elite-level NBA coach in addition to having great personal skills, player-development abilities (and) all the organizational bullet points that we had hoped to address.”
Injuries played a significant role in the product Orlando put on the floor in 2017-18. A total of 227 man-games were missed due to injuries or illness.
Rumors persisted around the time of Vogel’s firing that the Magic wanted former NBA guard Jerry Stackhouse to take the reins. Stackhouse is considered a top coaching candidate after he guided Toronto’s G League team to a championship last year. He is also connected to Weltman, a former Toronto Raptors executive.
Weltman’s hiring process was kept very quiet, and no interview with Stackhouse was ever acknowledged. Weltman did interview University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, San Antonio assistant Ime Udoka and Portland assistant David Vanterpool in the nearly two months since firing Vogel.
The Magic hold the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, which is just three weeks away.