Clifford won’t return as coach amid Magic rebuild

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As the Orlando Magic move into a full rebuilding process, coach Steve Clifford and the franchise have together agreed to a parting, the team announced Saturday.

Clifford, who led the Magic to the playoffs in successive seasons before this year, had several meetings with management over recent weeks that ultimately drove what has been described to ESPN as a “mutual decision,” sources said.

In the end, the timelines of the Magic’s rebuild and Clifford’s station were no longer aligned.

“We would like to thank Steve for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” president Jeff Weltman said in a release. “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.”

The Magic will commence a coaching search immediately, joining Boston and Portland with current openings.

Weltman and Magic general manager John Hammond hired Clifford upon arriving in Orlando three years ago, with hopes of him returning the franchise to the playoffs. He did so twice before season-ending injuries to two starters and a trade-deadline unloading of All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and guard Evan Fournier for multiple future draft picks changed the trajectory of the franchise.

Clifford, 59, had one year left on his original four-year contract, sources told ESPN.

“I would like to thank the DeVos family, Magic leadership and the entire staff, and certainly wish everyone well,” Clifford said in a statement released by the team. “It’s been an honor and privilege to coach this team in this community.”

He finishes with a 96-131 mark in three years in Orlando, including two playoff seasons. Orlando finished 21-51 this season, cycling several young players and 10-day-contract performers through the lineup.

Clifford has reached the playoffs four times in eight seasons between his two head-coaching jobs in Charlotte and Orlando.

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