Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford reacts during the second half of a March 10 game against the Grizzlies in Memphis, Tennessee. AP photo

Steve Clifford is healthy. Right now. As far as he knows, all his players on the Orlando Magic roster and their families are healthy, too, along with the people Clifford works with in Orlando’s front office.

“We have a lot of texts and calls. We’re not allowed to work with them, but we communicate. All our guys are hoping for the best. Some of them have young kids. Everybody’s family health is the big thing right now,” Clifford said.

Clifford, a University of Maine at Farmington graduate, is in his second season as Orlando’s head coach. He is one of two Maine natives who are NBA head coaches – Philadelphia 76ers Coach Brett Brown, a South Portland native, is the other – who are waiting to see if the season will resume after the league temporarily suspended play March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford calls to players in the second half of a March 10 game in Memphis. AP photo

Brown declined comment when reached Wednesday.

The NBA became the first North American professional sports league to indefinitely suspended play. In the days preceding that decision, teams were told such a move could be imminent, said Clifford, who was born in Island Falls and grew up in Mattawamkeag before his family moved to Vermont.

“We have great communication, great leadership,” Clifford said of NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his staff. “They’d been a step ahead on this the whole way.”


Orlando was 30-35 when the league halted play and in control of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Magic went 8-4 in their last 12 games and were coming off a 3-1 road trip. The team was set to host the Chicago Bulls on March 12. March 11 was an off day for the Magic, after returning home early that morning from a Tuesday night game in Memphis, a 120-115 win.

“We were playing our best basketball of the season,” said Clifford, who was hired in June 2018 after five seasons as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets.

Over the last few weeks, Clifford developed a routine. He lives alone in his Orlando apartment. He ventures out just to buy groceries or take a daily walk. Each day, Clifford talks with his players, friends, and family in Maine. He regularly has conference calls with Orlando Magic leadership.

Before becoming a head coach, Clifford spent more than a decade in the NBA as a scout and assistant coach. He’s seen a lot in the league, but never anything like the coronavirus shutdown. Nobody has.

The Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday morning that there are 8,000 coronavirus cases in Florida. In Orange County, where Orlando is located, the number of infected patients is expected to hit 500 by Friday. The city of Orlando’s population is approximately 286,000, with 1.1 million people in Orange County.

“I’m being careful. I live by myself. I try not to have contact with anyone,” Clifford said.

Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford calls out instructions during the first half of a Feb. 12 game against the Pistons in Orlando, Florida. AP photo

Clifford tries to make his days at home productive. He self scouts his team a lot, breaking down film on how the Magic played in their most recent games, looking for things he can use to improve the team when it eventually plays again. At the trade deadline,  Orlando acquired veteran forward James Ennis. Often, Clifford studies the 12 games in which Ennis played for the Magic.

“I sit and watch the games since we’ve gotten him. He had made us better,” Clifford said.

No time tables for a return to games has been discussed with the Magic coaching staff or players, Clifford said. While many players are staying in Orlando, they are not allowed to use team facilities and neither Clifford nor his staff are allowed to work with them, Clifford said.

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