Maine native Steve Clifford has left his post as head coach of the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets to address health concerns, the team reported on its website Wednesday morning.
There is no timetable for Clifford’s return to the sidelines, the team said in a press release, adding that associate head coach Stephen Silas will serve as the Hornets’ acting head coach during his absence.
“Out of respect for Clifford’s privacy, the Hornets will have no further comment at this time,” the team said.
News of Clifford’s illness first became public Monday when he missed the team’s shootaround and that night’s game against the Orlando Magic. Charlotte won 104-94 and is now 9-13 this season and ranked third in the NBA’s Southeast Division.
The Hornets were scheduled to host Golden State on Wednesday night.
Clifford, who grew up in Mattawamkeag, played basketball at the University of Maine at Farmington.
This is not the first health scare for the 56-year-old Clifford, who in November 2013 experienced chest pains while dining at a Charlotte restaurant, and doctors subsequently inserted two stents in his heart.
“To be honest, what happened with me is a lot more a byproduct of what I have done for 30 years than what’s happened the last five months,” Clifford told the Boston Globe at the time. “My issue is genetic. I do have to take better care of myself, I have to sleep better, I gotta do better with my diet, exercise better. This wasn’t something that happened over five months. Where I’m fortunate is, a lot of people unfortunately don’t get a warning sign and I did.”
Clifford, who started his coaching career more than 30 years ago at Woodland High School and returns to Maine often to visit friends and family.
He coached the Dragons to two tournament appearances in as many seasons before entering the college coaching ranks as an assistant at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.
He made subsequent stops at Fairfield University, Boston University and Siena before a four-year stint as head coach at Division II Adelphi University.
Clifford joined the NBA ranks in 2000 as an advance scout for the New York Knicks, then became an assistant under head coach Jeff Van Gundy with the Knicks from 2001 to 2003 and with the Houston Rockets from 2003 to 2007.
Clifford joined Van Gundy’s brother, current Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy, as an assistant with the Orlando Magic from 2007 to 2012 and spent one year with the Los Angeles Lakers before being hired as Charlotte’s head coach on May 29, 2013.
Clifford, one of two Maine natives working as an NBA head coach along with the Philadelphia 76ers’ Brett Brown of South Portland, has guided the Hornets to two playoff appearances in his first four years with the team.
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