ORLANDO (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Unlike so many Mainers who end up in Florida, Steve Clifford is no snowbird. He's the new head coach of the Orlando Magic.
The team announced the hiring on Wednesday as a homecoming. Clifford previously worked for the Magic as an assistant coach from 2007 to 2012. The last year of his tenure was also the last time the Magic made the playoffs. Clifford spent the previous five years as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets where he posted a record of 196-214.
Mid-way through the current season, Clifford took a month-long break from coaching to deal with severe headaches brought on by fatigue and sleep deprivation. He said only by working with doctors to change his lifestyle was he able to restore his health. But he couldn't do the same for his team's record, and the Hornets cut him loose after their last game.
"You still win and lose for the same reason," said Clifford in a 2015 interview with NEWS CENTER Maine's Bill Green. "The day to day, how you deal with them, the leadership part is different and the game is different, the game management part is different. You know, again, if you do the right things -- you defend, you rebound, take care of the ball, run a good offense -- you have a chance to win. If you don't, you don't."
Clifford was born in Lincoln, Maine where his father, Gerry, turned out some outstanding Mattawamkeag teams as coach in the 1960s. When Gerry took a job at North Country Union High School in Vermont, his son joined him on the team as a four-year starter.
Clifford returned to Maine to play basketball under Coach Len McPhee at the University of Maine at Farmington. He distinguished himself as a point guard, defender and team captain. But he really wanted to be on the other side of the sidelines as a coach. And so he worked at summer camps to learn from the top basketball minds in Maine.
After graduation with a degree in special education, Clifford found his first job coaching the Dragons at Woodland High School. Years of toil in the college ranks would follow as a subordinate on the coaching staffs at Saint Anselm College, Fairfield University, Boston University and Siena College. He made the most of his first collegiate head coaching opportunity at Adelphi University, leading the Panthers to four straight berths in the NCAA tournament and a record of 86-36.
A move to the NBA meant a return to the assistant's role with the Knicks, Rockets, Magic and Lakers. The Hornets made Clifford their head coach in 2013. Despite being fired after five years, his work impressed the Magic enough to give him another chance to build a winner.