FARMINGTON – Longtime NBA coach Steve Clifford was back in his home state this weekend, talking some basketball and sharing his expertise to college and high school coaches in the area.
Six different colleges, five NBA teams–Steve Clifford’s experience on the sidelines spans nearly four decades, and he’s always willing to share it back at his alma mater.
“I love to come back. I had such a great experience here. A lot of my closest friends are guys that played with, roomed with, lived with when I was here,” Clifford said.
Nearly 50 coaches from both colleges and high schools gathered at UMaine Farmington, as did some local professionals, to absorb whatever they could from the NBA coaching veteran.
“Clifford is a basketball mind, and I think the one thing I got the most out of it was his verbiage and the way he presented the information to us and the players,” said pro basketball player and UMaine alum Troy Barnies.
One of those players was Winslow grad and Farmington sophomore Colby Pomeroy.
“It means a lot coming from any coach, but coming from someone like Coach Clifford, you’re really listening to every little detail cause you don’t want to mess up, you want to do everything right,” Pomeroy said.
Any advice from any coach is valuable, but when you get the same pointer from a figure like Clifford, the message hits a little harder. UMaine Presque Isle men’s basketball coach Dan Kane can speak to that.
“Coach Clifford let me come down to watch a shoot around, and we took something from that and a couple of our players complained and I was like, ‘well if it’s good enough for the Orlando Magic, I think we can do it,’ and the guys laughed and were like ‘okay yeah let’s do it,’” Kane said.
But despite his nearly two decades of experience, it’s not always easy.
“Look, it’s not the kind of thing, if you’re looking for people to say you do a good job, it’s not that type of profession,” Clifford said.
Hot seats are most certainly a thing, and like any coach, Clifford has experienced that first hand, most recently parting ways with the Magic back in June.
That said, he’s also experienced the euphoria that coaching can bring–in the NBA sure, but also in the Maine high school tournament.
“When we were in Orlando and we beat Cleveland to go to the NBA Finals, you never forget that feeling, nor will I ever forget beating Sumner, that was the first tournament game in Bangor Auditorium, the first tournament win Woodland had won in I think 15 or 16 years,” Clifford said. “And it’s the same feeling. It doesn’t matter. The emotional part doesn’t change from level to level.”