Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford fell ill during the third quarter of his team’s matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, and according to the team’s public relations department, he was taken to the hospital for further examination. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added that Clifford was examined by team doctors at the arena, and the trip to the hospital is thought to be precautionary.
At this point, it’s obviously far too early to know how serious this may or may not be, but it’s troubling any time someone has to go to the hospital. And it’s especially worrisome considering Clifford is not far removed from having to step away from the game in order to focus on his health.
Back in the 2017-18 season, when he was coaching the Charlotte Hornets, Clifford started suffering from severe headaches, and was forced to step back from his coaching duties for over a month. At the time, doctors told him that his workaholic schedule and severe sleep deprivation was the cause of the headaches.
In an interview the next season, after he had returned to the sidelines, Clifford detailed how scary the episode was for him:
“A headache hit me so bad that I was shaking, and my head was pounding. I knew I was in trouble, so I just called (assistant coach) Pat (Delany) and said, `You’re going to have to do shootaround,”’ Clifford remembered. “I went out to drive home because I only lived four blocks away (from Charlotte’s arena) and once I sat down in my car, I knew it wouldn’t be smart for me to drive. So, I just walked home.”
Clifford didn’t coach that night – the reason given was an illness – and, as the Hornets were beating the Magic, the head coach was being thoroughly examined by team doctors. Two days later, it was announced that Clifford would be taking an extended leave of absence in hopes of improving his health. Privately, Clifford – the son of a high school coach whose only dreams in life were to coach basketball – feared that his career along the sidelines was over.
“Scared. Big-time scared,” he said. “Let’s put it this way, my first year (the 2013-14 season) there (in Charlotte) I had to have a couple of heart stints put in and I only missed one game. When this happened, I knew I couldn’t coach for a while. It was really scary for me.”
Hopefully for Clifford, his family and the Magic, this latest incident will turn out not to be as scary or serious.