The Charlotte Bobcats confirmed Wednesday that the team has filled its head coaching position, announcing the hiring of Steve Clifford.
The longtime NBA assistant is a native of Island Falls who grew up in Mattawamkeag. Clifford was with the Los Angeles Lakers this season after spending the previous five years with the Orlando Magic. Earlier this week, multiple reports indicated that Clifford agreed to a three-year contract.
“We are excited to have Steve Clifford as our new head coach,” said Rod Higgins, president of basketball operations. “He brings a strong pedigree and a track record of success to our franchise.”
Clifford, who becomes the sixth coach in franchise history, has coached under the Van Gundys, first with Jeff from 2003 to 2007 with the Houston Rockets and then with Stan in Orlando. He also worked as an advance scout and assistant for the New York Knicks and as head coach at NCAA Division II Adelphi University.
“He’s a brilliant basketball coach who relates to all kinds of people well and I think he will do an absolutely fantastic job with the talent at hand,” said Jeff Van Gundy, now a broadcaster for ESPN. “I’m so happy for one of the good guys in the league to get this opportunity.”
The Charlotte job will be Clifford’s first in the NBA as a head coach. He replaces Mike Dunlap, who was fired in April after the Bobcats posted a 21-61 record in his only season as coach.
Clifford is the son of Gerald Clifford, a Wytopitlock native who cut his coaching teeth at now defunct Mattawamkeag High before becoming a fixture at North Country Union High in Derby Line, Vt. Steve played for his father before returning to his native state to play at the University of Maine-Farmington.
After graduating from UMF in 1983, Clifford took his first teaching and coaching job at Woodland High School, where he guided the Dragons to a pair of tournament berths in two seasons.
Clifford moved from Woodland into the college coaching ranks, first at Division II Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., initially as a volunteer under current Cheverus of Portland coach Bob Brown.
After four years at Saint Anselm, Clifford moved up to Division I Fairfield University in Connecticut before rejoining Brown at Boston University.
Clifford stayed at BU for four years, then went to Siena College in upstate New York for a year before landing his first college head coaching job at Adelphi University on Long Island in Garden City, N.Y.
There he compiled an 86-36 record, guiding Adelphi to four appearances in the NCAA Div. II national tournament and becoming the first coach in school history with four straight 20-win seasons.