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Orlando Magic

Who is Steve Clifford with Walker Mehl of Locked On Hornets

Philip Rossman-Reich

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Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets

The Orlando Magic hired Steve Clifford as their new head coach earlier this week.

His reputation seems to precede him. He had a somewhat successful run with the Charlotte Hornets, making the Playoffs twice in five years and resurrecting the franchise to respectability at the very least.

Charlotte was always a team that played strong defense and committed to that end. They were disciplined and limited mistakes on offense. That was enough for Clifford to gain plenty of respect around the league.

But what does he really bring to the table? Can he develop players on the Magic? Is his offense or lack of results a concern?

These are questions only Charlotte Hornets fans can answer. I brought on Walker Mehl of Locked On Hornets to discuss Clifford’s five-year tenure with the team.

Mehl praised Clifford for establishing a culture and developing the players on the team. He believed players reached their ceilings under Clifford. The problem with Charlotte was more injury circumstances and an inability to hit big on draft picks.

That can hamper any team. Charlotte though grew to be a respected team even with a record that was not much to write home about. He is still well thought of around the league.

And so the Magic get a coach with that kind of reputation and with the ability to take a team from the bottom of the league and get them into the Playoff conversation. What more could Orlando ask for today?

The story for Clifford is still yet to be written, of course. There is a lot of work ahead for the Magic. But Clifford seems like a coach capable of getting the job done.

My name is Philip Rossman-Reich. I have been following the Orlando Magic almost since birth (i have the baby pictures from the first team practice to prove it) and that passion comes through as I discuss the team. I approach the team with a base of knowledge and history that adds depth to my conversations about the team. I have been covering the Orlando Magic in some form since 2009 (online, at least) and have been a credentialed member fo the media covering the team for Orlando Magic Daily since 2010. In the time I started writing for Orlando Magic Daily, I have grown it into perhaps the most consistent and well-read blog covering the Magic on the Web. I aim to foster discussion with my audience and provide in-depth and detailed analysis of the team, giving historical and basketball perspective few can give.

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Orlando Magic

Steve Clifford’s clean slate

Philip Rossman-Reich

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Steve Clifford, Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic finally have their first foundational piece of the summer in place. They finally have a coach.

The team introduced Steve Clifford as the team’s new head coach, putting in that all-important piece in place for the team to begin building again. Clifford is someone who helped establish a style of play and a culture with the Charlotte Hornets.

They jumped from a bottom-rung team to a perennial Playoff contender in Clifford’s five years. And while the Hornets only made it twice, their expectations were always high and their defense was always good.

Clifford’s teams played with discipline defensively and rarely turned the ball over. This is part of who Clifford is. He is a serious coach with very little frills, it seems. But someone who works with his players to improve.

While the Hornets never accomplished all of their goals, they still were a team that was much improved. Like Orlando, Charlotte fought its way back to relevancy. Clifford helped establish those standards to get there.

But Clifford will also get a clean slate with this roster it appears.

He said during his introductory press conference that he approaches each season with a clean slate. Everything has to start from scratch each year. Every fundamental reinforced and rebuilt.

Clifford would not comment on the current roster, saying he needed time to get to know them and study their games. It is his job to become an expert in his own players’ games.

That is his approach to coaching.

But he should also see a clean slate on the roster too. The Magic need to flip things over and make their roster new, giving Clifford a blank slate to lay his foundation. And more importantly bring in the players that will better fit his defensive-minded, disciplined style.

The Magic’s foundation though got a major piece Wednesday. Now comes the rest of the building blocks.

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Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic’s star search

Philip Rossman-Reich

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Michael Porter Jr., Missouri Tigers

Now that the Orlando Magic have their head coach, the team’s attention will turn fully toward the NBA Draft and putting the pieces together on the team to take that next step as an organization.

There is no doubt that the sixth pick in the Draft is an important piece to this team’s puzzle. It will bring a player who figures to be a core part of the team moving forward. Along with, at least, Jonathan Isaac.

Orlando needs to find that key piece with this pick. And so everyone has looked to the players with the most star potential as their salvation.

Trae Young and Michael Porter Jr., especially. That is if the first five picks go the way everyone expects.

That is the kind of weight that these picks hold. The question is exactly how will the Magic use it and what exactly will the team target as this foundational piece?

There are plenty of options. The two I mentioned before, then Wendell Carter Jr. and maybe even Mikal Bridges. Fans are not as high on those two players’ potential to bust out as star players. And so the focus remains on Young and Porter most of all.

What is clear though is the Magic need to get that piece in place. No team will go anywhere without its star player in place. And that is what fans hope can come out of this draft.

Orlando seems willing to take a swing to find that star in this run through. The only question that remains is whether they will get it and who that will be.

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Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic hire Steve Clifford as coach

Philip Rossman-Reich

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Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets

The Orlando Magic’s long coaching search ended Wednesday as the team announced Steve Clifford as its next coach.

Clifford had a solid, but not spectacular, five-year run with the Charlotte Hornets, going 196-214. A slightly below-.500 record. In his five years, he made two Playoff appearances.

That will not exactly inspire confidence in a Magic fan base that is hungry for success. But Clifford helped turn around a franchise that was at the bottom of the NBA barrel at the time. In his first season, the Hornets/Bobcats improved by 21 wins and made the Playoffs.

It helped establish a culture and an identity for the team that would lead to a 48-win season three years ago and a top-10 defensive rating in each of Clifford’s first three years.

Charlotte always played with a certain style and solidity that Clifford brought to the team. Even as it waned some in his last two years, the Hornets remained a solid squad with Playoff aspirations.

Injuries and late-game bad luck were the only things that seemed to keep them from achieving those goals. And ultimately it cost Clifford his place with the Hornets.

But Orlando needs that right now. The team needs a guy who will establish a standard and set a culture for the team. Clifford did that with the Hornets and has clear familiarity with the organization in the city from his time as a member of Stan Van Gundy’s staff.

The question will become whether he can take the team to its next step.

But first things first. Orlando has to get back to relevance and Playoff contention. If Clifford can replicate what he did with the Hornets, then the Magic may very well have made a good hire.

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