By Michael Levesque, Assistant Editor.
Photo from the UMF Athletic Department
On September 10, 2021, student-athletes and members within the University of Maine Farmington athletics department had the opportunity to listen to alumumnist and National Basketball Association coach, Steve Clifford.
Clifford returned to the college from which he graduated in 1983 to talk about his experience coaching basketball at the highest level. Clifford, who graduated from the university in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in special education, played basketball for UMF all four years. After graduation, he coached at the high school and college level before accepting a position as an assistant coach for the New York Knicks in 2001. Clifford was an assistant coach in the league for 12 more years before becoming the head coach for the Charlotte Hornets in 2013 and later the Orlando Magic. Today Clifford is a coaching consultant for the Brooklyn Nets.
Clifford first talked to a large group of UMF student athletes, where he touched on values that he believes are not only good for NBA players, but athletes in general. “Work, accountability and togetherness… These are the three main ideas that he focuses on with the NBA teams that he has coached,” said McKenna Brodeur in an email. Brodeur is a captain on the women’s soccer team and a post player on the women’s basketball team. “All three ideas…impact a team’s culture,” she said. “Work requires you to put the effort in. Accountability means having discipline and showing up every day on time, as well as knowing the plays and sets. Lastly, togetherness is the goal of the team,” she said. “You need to be able to play together and have a plan to get better.” Brodeur mentioned that some of the messages she learned, she plans on taking to the soccer field. “I want to bring back what I learned from Coach Clifford back to the team. I think it will be a good reminder on why we cannot just show up to practice and expect greatness. We must work toward our goals and aim to do better every day,” Brodeur said.
Clifford’s visit then transitioned to the basketball court where he conducted a coaching clinic. With UMF men’s basketball players on the court and coaches from around the state in the bleachers, Clifford conducted a few drills and offered coaches advice on running a successful basketball team. “[Clifford] showed us different drills and plays and how they transitioned to success at the NBA level,” said Jack Kane, a center on the men’s basketball team. Kane mentioned how other coaches were there to learn as much from Clifford as they possibly could, including UMF’s own coach Sam Leal. “Coach was taking notes in the stands, listening. He was not ‘coaching’ at all,” said Kane. Kane, like the other members of the team actually completing the drills that day, hopes that what they learned from Clifford can translate to a successful season this winter.
For more photos of Clifford’s visit, check out the athletic department’s instagram page @umfatheltics.