The Charlotte Hornets Find a Familiar Face in Steve Clifford as Their New Head Coach
The Charlotte Hornets found themselves in a bit of a scramble when their initial choice for the head coach position, Kenny Atkinson, backed out and decided to remain an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors. However, they quickly pivoted and tapped familiar face Steve Clifford to coach the team next season.
A Surprising Move, but a Return to Familiarity
Bringing back Clifford may seem like an odd choice, considering he previously coached the Hornets for five seasons before being let go at the end of the 2017-18 season. However, owner Michael Jordan and general manager Mitch Kupchak see Clifford as the right fit for this current batch of young Hornets, with his strong defensive-minded coaching style.
Despite missing the playoffs for the past six years, including all four seasons under James Borrego, the Hornets have shown promise. In the last two seasons, they qualified for the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament, narrowly missing out on a playoff berth. The team believes Clifford’s defensive expertise will help them take the next step.
Clifford’s Perspective: Returning to an Exciting Young Team
Steve Clifford expressed his excitement about returning to Charlotte and working with the Hornets’ talented roster. He understands the passion that Hornets fans have for the franchise and is eager to get started.
“This is an exciting young team with a lot of talented pieces,” said Clifford. “Charlotte is a great city, and I know first-hand the passion that Hornets fans have for this franchise. I can’t wait to get back to town and start working with our players.”
Clifford’s Coaching Journey: From Charlotte to Orlando and Back Again
In his eight seasons as a head coach, Clifford has amassed a .458 winning percentage with a record of 292-345. Most recently, he spent three seasons with the Orlando Magic but was let go at the end of the 2020-21 season after the team finished with a 21-51 record. However, Clifford guided the Magic to the postseason in his first two seasons, highlighting his ability to lead a team to success.
Clifford’s first head coaching opportunity came with the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2013-14 season. He continued with the team when they transitioned back to using the Hornets branding. During his five seasons in Charlotte, he achieved a record of 196-214 and led the team to two playoff appearances in the 2014 and 2016 seasons.
Commitment to Defense: A Driving Force for Jordan and Kupchak
The Hornets’ ownership and management value Clifford’s commitment to a strong defensive approach. The team struggled in that department last season, making it a top priority for improvement.
“We believe that his previous experience and coaching philosophy make him the best coach for our team,” stated Kupchak. “Steve has a proven track record of improving defenses and is detail-oriented. He has a history of maximizing players’ talent and working with them to develop and expand their skill sets. Steve is committed to playing with the same offensive pace that our fans are accustomed to seeing in recent years.”
A Missed Opportunity for D’Antoni
During the initial search for a new head coach, Mike D’Antoni was a finalist. However, the Hornets ultimately chose Atkinson over D’Antoni, who is known for his offensive expertise. When Atkinson later backed out, D’Antoni appeared as the frontrunner. However, in the final decision, the Hornets decided to bring back Clifford, recognizing his ability to assemble strong defensive teams.
Throughout his tenure with the Bobcats/Hornets, Clifford consistently built top ten defenses, showcasing his proficiency in the area that the Hornets currently need the most improvement.
The Charlotte Hornets have surprised many by appointing Steve Clifford for his second stint as their head coach. Despite his previous departure, Clifford’s defensive expertise and proven track record make him an ideal choice to guide this young Hornets team. With a renewed focus on defense and a commitment to maximizing player talent, Clifford aims to lead his team to success and return Buzz City to the playoffs once again.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1: How successful was Steve Clifford during his previous tenure with the Charlotte Hornets?
A1: Steve Clifford achieved a record of 196-214 during his five seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, leading the team to two playoff appearances.
Q2: What led to the Hornets’ decision to hire Steve Clifford once again?
A2: The Hornets’ ownership and management value Clifford’s commitment to a strong defensive approach. With the team struggling defensively, they believe Clifford is the right coach to improve in that area and maximize player talent.
Q3: What were the reasons behind Kenny Atkinson’s decision to remain an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors?
A3: The exact reasons for Atkinson’s decision are unknown. However, it is not uncommon for coaches to prioritize different opportunities or personal preferences when making career decisions.
Q4: Who were the other candidates considered for the head coach position?
A4: Other candidates considered for the position included Mike D’Antoni, who is known for his offensive expertise, and potentially others who have not been publicly disclosed.
Q5: What are the expectations for the Charlotte Hornets in the upcoming season under Steve Clifford’s coaching?
A5: The Hornets hope that Clifford’s defensive mindset and ability to maximize player talent will lead the team to improved performances, with the ultimate goal of securing a spot in the playoffs.