There’s an old adage, that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
That adage seems to apply to Wednesday’s announcement that the Orlando Magic named Steve Clifford its 13TH head coach in franchise history, as the franchise enters its seventh season of a seemingly never-ending re-build.
Just one season removed from the hiring of new front office executives, General Manager John Hammond and President of Basketball Operations, Jeff Weltman, former head coach Frank Vogel was fired immediately following the conclusion of another abysmal season in April. Vogel’s .329 winning percentage in two seasons (54-110), was the second lowest for any coach in franchise history whose tenure lasted at least one season. Only Jacque Vaughn’s .269 winning percentage was worse.
It should come as no surprise that the newly minted management team would eventually surround themselves with their own hires, thus the firing of Vogel. However, the hiring of Steve Clifford on Wednesday brings further questions as to just who in fact is in charge over at 1 Magic Place.
Clifford returns to Orlando after a five year stint as an assistant coach under Stan Van Gundy from 2007-2012. Those years are also remembered by Magic faithful as the best in franchise history, and included their most recent trip to the NBA Finals in 2009. But very few names remain employed by the franchise from those glory days, and those that are, include the often-criticized ownership group lead by Rich DeVos, and teams in-town figure head/CFO, Alex Martins.
At the introductory press conference on Wednesday, Weltman and Hammond shared that they were both prepared to bring Clifford in as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013, but that Clifford had already agreed to take a job with the Charlotte Hornets. Clifford was fired by the Hornets just one day following the departure of Vogel in Orlando. So how the 48-day search for the newest Magic coach ended on a man who was unemployed for 47 of those days, needs clarification.
Throughout the search, rumors included names as far reaching as University of Houston’s Kelvin Sampson, to Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, and seemed to provide enough optimism that the new management team was indeed conducting a wide spread search for their “guy”. For the coaching carousel to stop on Clifford after such a lengthy search, something doesn’t seem to add up to Wednesday’s story shared by the new executive duo about their willingness to hire him in Milwaukee five year ago.
Beyond that brief flirtation in Milwaukee, Clifford, Weltman, and Hammond do not have any history of working together. But Clifford, Martins, and DeVos do. A trait that was also shared by former coaching failure, Scott Skiles.
Clifford, who becomes to the Magic’s fifth head coach in as many seasons, seems to be nothing more than the newest trick that the old dogs at the top of the franchise (DeVos and Martins) simply won’t adhere to.
The Magic own the sixth pick in the June’s NBA Draft, which will take place June 21st from the Barclay’s Center in New York City.