Marc Daniels: Did Cliff Quit Or Was He Forced Out?

Orlando Magic v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Five

Does it even matter? Maybe.

The Magic and Steve Clifford have parted ways. Clifford had one year left on his deal and now he has none. 

While Rob Hennigan's favorite word during the rebuild was "organic", team president Jeff Weltman's word is "alignment" in describing a team makeover.

Apparently, Clifford and the Magic's vision for the future are not aligned and so he's out. Did he quit? I guess you could say that because he was under contract. Was he offered an extension? We don't know and maybe the Magic never had to offer an extension because maybe they got the result they wanted in regards to Clifford. The team knew Clifford was not onboard when they pulled the plug and traded away its best players in late March. Clifford then got a two month trial of what life would be like with a young team hoping a player or two would develop into stars.

If the Magic knew Clifford would not get passionate about a lengthy rebuild then let the season change and have those "end of the year" discussions and know he wants out. You don't fire him but you let him talk about why it's best to "part ways" and go in different directions. 

Think about this, there are 30 head coaching jobs in the NBA. At 59 and one who had had a few health issues, Steve Clifford walked away from one of those 30 jobs. If you think he has another job in line, where? Clifford is 292-345 as a head coach and while he can point to his reputation for developing players, holding them accountable and earning respect and getting the most out of veterans, who is hiring him? Portland? Damian Lillard openly campaigned for Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups. How do the Blazers sell Clifford to their fans and their all-star player they are hoping to keep around. Boston? Can't see that one being sold to fans either.

Fair or not, you are what your record is and Clifford knows few coaches with sub-500 records get a third chance but maybe the losing was not good for his health. Maybe he just can't stand the thought of losing 50 or more games for the next 2-3 seasons and maybe the Magic knew all this and let him walk getting the result they wanted.

So who does the team hire next? Who cares. Do you? Of course you do because every time a team has a coaching vacancy fans love to play the game of who they can get. 

Terry Stotts? That get you really pumped?

Jason Kidd? Likely has better choices where he can win now.

Chauncey Billups? I think will get a job soon but does he want to take a few years before the team wins.

And everyone's list of rising assistant coaching stars: Adrian Griffin, Pat Delany, David Vanterpool, Darvin Ham, Wes Unseld Jr and on and on.

I am sure the Magic will hire someone who will be more than competent to do the job. Maybe he(or she) will be the next Jacque Vaughn for the Magic. That coach will be asked to develop young players and get the most out of the team and hope Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are healthy.

Again, there are only 30 head coaching jobs in the NBA. There are plenty of people who want the Magic job but the pool is shrunk from the start because there are also potential candidates who would not want to take the Magic job because you are not going to win for a few seasons.

The clock is now on Jeff Weltman, who gets a chance to build the Magic again- yes, again. Weltman came in and was asked to get the team to the playoffs and they did make the playoffs. But he also then pressed the rebuild button when Fultz and Isaac went down and he traded away the team's best three remaining players. So the Magic are rebuilding again but now with a new coach because the one they had knows the long road ahead and he didn't want to be a part of it. Whether Steve Clifford left on his own or he was forced out doesn't really matter. Just like it doesn't really matter who the Magic draft. I mean, it matters, but the point is it's up to Weltman to get it right. Pick the right coach and draft the right players because Orlando fans have waited long enough and you are asking them to wait even longer.

Final thought: Former Magic interim head coach Chris Jent(2005 he was 5-13 replacing Johnny Davis) is an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks- his fourth season with the team.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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