‘An exciting time for this franchise’: Charlotte Hornets introduce Steve Clifford as new head coach
The re-hiring of Clifford comes after Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson backed out of his verbal four-year agreement
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Just over four years after he was fired, the Charlotte Hornets re-introduced Steve Clifford as the franchise’s new head coach on Tuesday.
Clifford, who was the lead man in Charlotte from 2013-18 before his departure, will get a second chance with the team following the firing of his original replacement, James Borrego in April.
The re-hiring of Clifford comes after Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson backed out of his verbal four-year agreement to become the franchise’s new head coach two weeks ago.
“This is an exciting time for this franchise,” Clifford said. “(It’s) a roster capable of doing something exceptional with a fanbase that I know is hungry for playoff success. I’m anxious to be part of that ecstatic to be back.”
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During Clifford’s original stint with the Bobcats/Hornets, he compiled a 196-214 record and guided the team to the playoffs twice. That includes Charlotte’s most recent playoff appearance in 2016. Clifford then coached the Orlando Magic for three seasons from 2018-21, which included two more playoff appearances.
Clifford said after he was fired in 2018, he maintained a great relationship with the team’s ownership and general manager Mitch Kupchak.
“I feel very comfortable with him (Kupchak),” Clifford said. “It’s a young roster with a lot of potential and a lot of room for growth so I think there’s the opportunity here to do something exceptional.”
Led by young players like LaMelo Ball, PJ Washington, Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges, who is a restricted free agent, and new rookie Mark Williams, the Hornets are hoping to take the next step after winning 43 games last season, which was a 10-game improvement from the year prior.
Charlotte had the eighth-best offense in the NBA last year but struggled defensively, which is Clifford’s strong suit.
“If we’re going to have playoff success, we don’t have to just improve the defense, we need to improve in all areas,” Clifford said.
Clifford needs 11 more wins to become Charlotte’s winningest head coach in franchise history.
During the press conference, Kupchak told reporters that the team plans on bringing Bridges back. Charlotte extended a qualifying offer to the fourth-year forward on Tuesday, meaning they can match any contract offer that a team signs Bridges to this offseason.
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