Orlando Magic’s coaching continuity has helped team grow

Steve Clifford brought most of his staff from Charlotte to the Orlando Magic and that has helped the team find stability. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Steve Clifford brought most of his staff from Charlotte to the Orlando Magic and that has helped the team find stability. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

Steve Clifford brought most of his staff from Charlotte to Orlando when he took the Orlando Magic job. That continuity has helped the team grow too.

All good things eventually come to an end. And in the NBA, success ultimately leads to poaching and teams trying to copy or break off a part of that success.

The Orlando Magic are at least moderately successful, turning around six years lost in the development desert into two straight years in the Playoffs (probably) with much of the same roster. That kind of development and culture does not go unnoticed around the league.

It is no surprise then that the Magic staff have taken interviews for several jobs opening up for rebuilding teams as the end of the season draws nearer (this is the normal time for those hires to take place after all).

Magic assistant general manager Matt Lloyd reportedly interviewed with the Chicago Bulls for their open general manager job. He is almost certain to become a general manager at some point in his career — and he is one of the few holdovers in the front office from Rob Hennigan, showing just how valuable the Magic view his insight.

The latest is now Magic assistant coach Pat Delany.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports the New York Knicks will interview him for their vacant head coaching position.

It is still widely expected the Knicks will hire Tom Thibodeau. But if New York opts for a more developmental route, Delany is certainly a strong candidate.

He has been with the Magic each of the past two years and joined Steve Clifford’s staff with the Charlotte Hornets for the 2015 season. He was the head coach for the Sioux Falls SkyForce in 2014.

It is always a good thing when other teams spot talent within your roster. Having coaches that interview elsewhere is a double-edged sword. It is tough to lose any member of the coaching staff. But it is a sign that they have a good reputation and are good at their job.

Steve Clifford’s collaborative approach

Steve Clifford has always been very collaborative with his coaching staff. They divide up responsibilities and work well together as they help players grow and prepare for games. The one thing they have always provided the Orlando Magic is some level of consistency with their approach.

That was the case from the very start when they arrived in Orlando.

To some surprise, Clifford brought virtually his entire coaching staff with him from Charlotte to Orlando. The only addition was former head coach Tyrone Corbin to his staff. Corbin was previously the head coach for the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings in two separate stints.

Clifford cited that familiarity as key to helping the team get things started last year. Knowing how everyone in the staff works together and how Clifford likes to run his teams helped the Magic coaches begin to teach players and into the season’s rhythm.

Everyone on the coaching staff has their role — Bruce Kreutzer is the shooting coach, Mike Batiste works with the big men and on down the line. And they seem to know they can trust each other to fill those roles.

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There was a level of trust from Clifford that he knew everyone could execute his vision for how the team could run.

Despite the middling results in Charlotte — the team made two playoff appearances in five years — the plan that worked with the Hornets worked for the Magic. The goal was to make the Magic a respectable, playoff-caliber team like the Hornets were. And that part was undoubtedly successful.

The importance of trust and familiarity

To get some sense of how important this transition is, consider what happened when the Orlando Magic hired Frank Vogel from the Indiana Pacers.

When the Magic hired Vogel after he was let go in 2016, he wanted to bring his coaching staff from the Pacers with him to Orlando.

But Indiana opted to keep Nate McMillan and he kept the entire staff in Orlando. Vogel arrived in Orlando eventually starting from scratch with an entirely new staff — Chad Forcier, Corliss Williamson, David Adelman and Jay Hernandez.

Vogel, at the time, even noted how he was still getting into a rhythm and learning his new coaching staff. Already with a mismatched roster and outsized expectations, the Magic were essentially playing catch up from the very start of training camp.

The Magic had a lot of problems beyond the new coaching staff — just like now the team has had its struggles despite a familiar coaching staff — but this undoubtedly worked against the team in some way.

This is to say, the Magic have benefited from the comfort, familiarity and stability that Clifford’s coaching staff has provided.

Change is the only constant

But the NBA is a league constantly in flux. There is no standing still — whether it is the roster or elsewhere.

And so the Orlando Magic’s success, as moderate as it is, has gotten notice. Things will inevitably change both with the roster and with the coaching staff.

Losing Pat Delany would be a big loss. But it is one the team probably welcomes because they cheer for their own to advance in their career.

Just look at what FOX Sports Florida sideline reporter Dante Marchitelli had to say in reaction to the report of Pat Delany’s interview:

Head coaches always want their assistants to get jobs. They want them to interview for jobs. An assistant coach with head coaching capabilities is an asset for them too.

Stan Van Gundy was always an advocate for Patrick Ewing and his assistant coaches to take interviews and go for head coaching jobs.

It is still not clear where Delany lands in the pecking order of Knicks candidates. They are expected to interview 8-10 candidates — including Ime Udoka, Kenny Atkinson and possibly Becky Hammon. Tom Thibodeau still seems the popular pick because the Knicks usually settle on a name.

In all likelihood, Delany will be back in Orlando next year with this interview and thinking about how he would run a team under his belt.

The staff continuity has been a huge benefit to the Magic. That may change at some point.

But Steve Clifford has been able to build and grow his team because, like a team, everyone knows their role and knows how to execute his plan.

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That has been a benefit for the Magic, even in a season that has been largely disappointing.