The names Steve Clifford lists as his earliest coaching influences reads like a Who’s Who of Maine basketball coaches: Len MacPhee, Dick Whitmore, Dick Meader, Fern Masse, Bob Brown, Tom Maines, Art Dyer, Robin Marshall, Jim Bessey and Fern Masse.

All of them and numerous others played a part in molding the University of Maine at Farmington alum and Lincoln native into what he is today, head coach of the Charlotte Hornets.

Clifford is returning to Farmington to conduct a coaching clinic on Sunday that he hopes will inspire the next generation of Maine coaches.

The three-hour session will cover coaching philosophy, offensive concepts and organization and game preparation. Clifford, 53, started learning many of those concepts watching and playing for his father, Gerald, who coached high school basketball in Maine and Vermont, then playing for longtime UMF coach MacPhee.

“Playing for coach MacPhee at Farmington was just an incredible experience,” Clifford said shortly after landing in Chicago for a two-day NBA head coaches conference on Thursday. “I learned so much from him and he had a huge impact on how I looked at the game and how I coach today.”

A team captain his last two years playing for MacPhee, Clifford graduated in 1983 and went into teaching and coaching at Woodland High School. As a fledgling coach, he met and worked with many of his early influences at camps and clinics around the state.

“I was so fortunate that there were so many terrific, knowledgeable coaches who spent time with us young coaches,” Clifford said.

Brown, a recent inductee with the inaugural class of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, gave him his first college job as an assistant coach at St. Anselm’s. Clifford later followed Brown to Boston University.

Clifford said it was during his first stint as a college head coach at Adelphi University that he last set foot in Farmington “16 or 17 years ago.” He still makes frequent visits to see his father and mother, Theresa, at their home in Ellsworth, and brother Danny is principal at Bucksport High School.

But the demands of his dream job keep Clifford far away from his home state most of the time. Coming off a 43-39 record and a first-round playoff appearance in his first season with the Bobcats (who changed their name to the Hornets during the offseason), Clifford is optimistic he will spend more time on the sidelines this season with a team that can go deeper into the playoffs.

“I feel like we built a foundation for how we want to do things and the way we need to play,” said Clifford, who led the Bobcats to the biggest turnaround in the league (+22 wins) and finished fourth in voting for Coach of the Year. “Our defense was really good (ranked sixth in the league). Our offense needs to get better and it was towards the end of the season. I think we have a better roster, and with the work that the guys have done with the team in the off-season, I think we can build on that foundation.

Sunday’s clinic, which benefits the UMF basketball program, is 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Mt. Blue High School. It is open to basketball coaches from all levels. Registration is $30 in advance or at the door. For more information, call 778-7148.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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