August 11, 2022

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Steve Clifford has agreed on a deal to change into the Charlotte Hornets’ coach, returning...

Steve Clifford has agreed on a deal to change into the Charlotte Hornets’ coach, returning for a second run on the job, the group introduced Friday.

Clifford, who led the franchise to 2 playoff appearances in a five-year run that led to 2018, returns within the wake of Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson altering his thoughts about accepting the Charlotte job and deciding as an alternative to stick with the Warriors.


Clifford at all times had a powerful working relationship with Hornets proprietor Michael Jordan and match the profile of what Jordan and basic supervisor Mitch Kupchak needed for this creating, younger roster: a coach who might enhance them defensively and rework them right into a playoff group. Clifford is well-regarded amongst his teaching friends and revered for maximizing the expertise on his rosters in each Charlotte and Orlando.


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“We imagine that his earlier expertise and training philosophy make him the perfect coach for our group,” Kupchak mentioned in a launch. “Steve has a confirmed observe file of enhancing defenses and is element oriented. He has a historical past of maximizing gamers’ expertise and dealing with them to develop and increase their ability units. Steve is dedicated to taking part in with the identical offensive tempo that our followers are accustomed to seeing the previous couple of years. We’re assured that he’ll be capable to assist our younger gamers proceed to develop as we glance to take the subsequent step as a group.”

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Clifford met with possession and administration in latest days and momentum shortly gathered on his candidacy to return, sources like mentioned.

The Hornets additionally strongly thought-about Mike D’Antoni, who interviewed with Jordan just lately, sources mentioned.

Lengthy thought-about one of many NBA’s prime defensive coaches, Clifford will likely be tasked with enhancing that finish of the courtroom for a Charlotte group that has completed among the many backside 10 groups within the NBA in defensive score three of the previous 4 seasons — together with rating twenty third in 2021-22.

In his 5 seasons with the Hornets, Charlotte’s protection ranked inside the highest 10 thrice. His defenses completed eighth and eleventh in two of his three seasons as coach of the Magic.

Charlotte completed final season with the NBA’s eighth-ranked offense, and has loads of firepower at that finish of the courtroom between All-Star guard LaMelo Ball, restricted free agent ahead Miles Bridges, guard Terry Rozier and ahead Gordon Hayward, amongst others.

“That is an thrilling younger group with plenty of proficient items,” Clifford mentioned. “Charlotte is a superb metropolis and I do know first-hand the fervour that Hornets followers have for this franchise. I can’t wait to get again to city and begin working with our gamers.”

The reunion between Clifford and the Hornets comes after the group initially agreed to a cope with Atkinson to switch James Borrego, who was fired in April after 4 seasons.

Clifford, 60, went 196-214 throughout 5 seasons throughout his first stint with the franchise, which noticed him lead the Hornets to their finest file since they returned to the NBA in 2004 as an enlargement group once they went 48-34 in 2016. The Hornets misplaced within the first spherical of the playoffs to the Miami Warmth in seven video games that yr.

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He led Charlotte to 2 of its three playoff appearances within the 18 seasons because it returned to the league. Clifford’s 196 wins are second in franchise historical past behind Allan Bristow, who coached the group within the early- and mid-Nineteen Nineties. Clifford is tied with Bristow for essentially the most video games coached in franchise historical past.

After Clifford was fired by Charlotte in 2018, he was employed a number of weeks later by the Magic, whom he coached for 3 years — together with back-to-back playoff appearances in his first two seasons — earlier than each side agreed to half methods after a 21-61 marketing campaign in 2020-21. He spent this previous season in a consulting function for Steve Nash with the Brooklyn Nets.

Clifford started his profession working as a coach at varied schools within the Northeast, then served as an assistant coach with the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Magic and Los Angeles Lakers earlier than being employed by the Hornets in 2013 for his first head-coaching job.

Clifford agreeing to teach the Hornets leaves one group — the Utah Jazz — and not using a head coach for subsequent season, after longtime coach Quin Snyder determined to step away from the group earlier this month.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.

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