Steve Clifford agrees to return as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, report says

Clifford was the team’s head coach from 2013-2018, and led the team to the playoffs twice.
The Charlotte Hornets are bringing back Steve Clifford as head coach.
The Charlotte Hornets are bringing back Steve Clifford as head coach.
Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 5:52 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - After four seasons away, Steve Clifford is back in the Queen City, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday.

Clifford served as the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets for five seasons, from 2013-2018, twice taking the team to the playoffs.

The report comes six days after Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson backed out of the Hornets job, opting to remain with the Warriors moving forward.

Charlotte made the playoffs in 2014 and 2016 under Clifford’s watch during his first stint with the team, but has yet to make it back.

The team had a 196-214 record during his run. His 196 victories rank second in franchise history, just 11 behind Allan Bristow.

“I’m happy to be returning to Charlotte, and I want to thank Michael Jordan, Mitch Kupchak and Buzz Peterson for this opportunity,” Clifford said. “This is an exciting young team with a lot of talented pieces. 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 did not coach this past year, but served as a consultant for the Brooklyn Nets. He coached the rebuilding Orlando Magic from 2018-2021.

James Borrego spent the past four seasons at the helm for the Hornets, compiling a 138-163 record, and making the play-in tournament twice.

A lot has changed since Clifford was last in Charlotte, as no player on the current roster was with the team during his first go-round.

Now, back in charge for Michael Jordan’s franchise, Clifford is gifted with a host of talented young players, including LaMelo Ball, P.J. Washington, Terry Rozier and more. Forward Miles Bridges is a restricted free agent this summer, and will be a priority for the team.

“Steve has a proven track record of improving defenses and is detail-oriented,” Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “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 the last few years. We are confident that he will be able to help our young players continue to grow as we look to take the next step as a team.”

The roster is in much better shape than it was during Clifford’s initial stint, thanks in large part to the work of Kupchak.

Clifford carries a reputation of being a defensive-minded coach, which should help the Hornets, who were one of the NBA’s worst defensive teams this past year.

Charlotte selected Duke center Mark Williams with the team’s first-round pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, perhaps giving the Hornets the big man they have been searching for since the departure of Al Jefferson.

Related: Kenny Atkinson backs out of Charlotte Hornets head-coaching job, report says

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