Steve Clifford has tested positive for COVID-19.
Clifford said he was shocked to learn of the positive test because he feels “100 percent.” He doesn’t expect to be able to coach during Sunday’s game against the Pacers, saying it will depend on the results of the test he took Saturday afternoon and another he will take Sunday morning.
“Personally, I don’t see a way I coach tomorrow night,” Clifford told reporters on Saturday night. “Monday, maybe. I guess if both these tests are negative it could be a chance by the time we go on the road. But again, I think it depends on the league. Again, I totally understand it. It’s frustrating for me, but the league has to do what’s best for the players and everybody’s sake to continue to go forward and play the games, and we all have to abide by their decisions.”
Clifford said he first tested positive on Thursday night after the Magic faced the Pelicans, two days after playing the Hawks in a game where one of the referees who officiated tested positive. As a result, the Magic were under enhanced protocol by the NBA.
Clifford, who said he received his second vaccination on Thursday afternoon, took two more tests on Friday that he said came back negative. He was tested again on Saturday morning, and said he was in the parking garage with Jeff Weltman and John Hammond when Magic trainer Ernest Eugene informed him his latest test was positive.
“I feel fine. I have no temperature, I feel 100 percent,” Clifford said. “When [Ernest] came out and said I was positive I was beyond shocked.”
Clifford, when asked about his concern level, lightened the mood by referencing his conversation with Mo Bamba, who last summer tested positive for COVID-19.
“Not to make a joke of it,” Clifford said, “I just talked to Mo and I told him with this body I’m not sure the pandemic can really hurt me.”
Clifford praised the Magic for their handling of the vaccination process, which may have alleviated Clifford’s symptoms if he does indeed have the virus.
“I think the one thing, and I thank the Magic for this, I think the fact that we’ve all been able to go through the vaccination process, I got my second vaccine on Thursday, which If you look at it in terms of percentages and numbers, I feel comfortable that I’m not really in danger,” Clifford said. “So that with the fact that my temperature, my oxidation numbers, how I feel, I have no side effects right now. I’m very comfortable with that.”
“For me, I just don’t understand why anybody would be against the vaccination,” Clifford said later. “The more people that do it in our country, it’s better for all of us. I’m appreciative of the Magic, of the way that they’ve organized it for us to get these vaccinations in a timely and orderly way. I think it’s not only good for you personally, but again, if you think of the people that live around you, it makes it best for everybody. So for sure, I feel so much better about it.”
Clifford said if he is unable to coach, assistant coach Ty Corbin will take his place. Corbin, the former head coach of the Jazz, replaced Clifford last season in Minnesota when Clifford was unable to return after halftime due to a health scare.
“I’m in a place here where I’m healthy enough so hopefully I can help somewhat,” Clifford said. “But I’m fortunate, I have a veteran staff. I mean look at our guys. These guys have been around, they’ve coached in a bunch of games. Ty’s been a head coach. Pat, Steve, Mike. Those guys have been around. Our team will be prepared to play tomorrow night.”