The Hornets firing Steve Clifford was understandable. The coach was working for a new general manager (Mitch Kupchak) who didn’t hire him, and Clifford didn’t have a good enough record (36-46 each of the last two seasons) to protect himself.
It’s clear how these things go.
But once Charlotte made the move, it was very unclear what’d happen with Clifford. He missed about a quarter of the season with health issues. Perhaps, not coaching was best for him.
Q. What’s your feeling, as far as coaching?
A. My hope is to be a head coach again (in the NBA) next year. There is a lot of movement in the league. There are certainly jobs I’m interested in. I’m looking into it. I want to be involved in the NBA. I enjoy coaching a great deal (in general), but I also (particularly) enjoy the competition in this league.
Q. If you aren’t offered a head-coaching job, would you be receptive to being an NBA assistant again?
A. Definitely. That’s not something I would do right now, but if there’s not a head-coaching opportunity, that’s definitely something I would consider.
If Clifford is ready to coach, he should be a serious candidate for every team trying to win now.
The straightforward Clifford is a strong communicator. What he did with Charlotte’s 2016 team – which won 48 games and was brimming with expiring contracts – is one of the most underrated coaching jobs in recent memory. Clifford is an excellent defensive tactician, and he’s evolving offensively.
The Hornets might have just been unlucky lately. They had the point difference typical of a 42-40 team the last couple seasons but went 36-46 each year.
That said, Clifford probably could have done a better job with his rotations last season, even amid injury and a cap-pinched roster. Charlotte was too inept whenever Kemba Walker sat. More staggering could have helped.
Clifford is not a no-brainer hire. But he deserves major consideration around the league.