NBA

NBA: Orlando Magic coach Clifford agrees to leave ahead of rebuild

As they prepare to reshape their team in the offseason, the Orlando Magic have first parted company with head coach Steve Clifford.

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Coach Clifford agrees to leave Magic ahead of rebuild

Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford will not be part of the team's rebuild after he agreed to leave the NBA franchise on Saturday.

Clifford departs Magic after three years as head coach

Clifford had been the Magic's coach since May 2018, initially overseeing an upturn in form.

After six seasons without making the playoffs, Orlando had a 42-40 record in Clifford's first season to finish seventh in the Eastern Conference, losing to the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the postseason.

The Magic bowed out at the same stage of the following year's tournament to the Milwaukee Bucks and then struggled to stay competitive in 2020-21.

Magic finished NBA regular season 14th in Eastern Conference

Clifford had the team at 15-29 approaching March's trade deadline when Orlando cashed in on their assets, having already lost one-time first overall pick Markelle Fultz to injury.

All-Star Nikola Vucevic left the team, along with Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, prompting a late-season run in which the team went 6-22.

Clifford used 32 different starting lineups but none of them more than six times, contributing to a 21-51 record only good enough for 14th in the 15-team East.

The Magic are therefore in position for a lottery draft pick and could receive a second from the Chicago Bulls, but Clifford will not be the man overseeing the new team.

"We would like to thank Steve for his contributions to the Orlando Magic," president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said.

"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."

Clifford reportedly had a year remaining on his contract but "mutually agreed" his exit.