Steve Clifford enters his third season vying to put his team back in playoffs for the second time in three years.
The 54-year old also happens to be entering the last season of a three-contract he signed in May of 2013. After a year from hell last season, if the Hornets don't make significant gains this year, Clifford, as well as several others, may be out of a job.
According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski though, Clifford may not stay unemployed for long if the Hornets decide to move on after this season. "As the Hornets meet Miami to start the season on Wednesday, Clifford promises to be one of the intriguing coaching figures to study in the NBA this season, largely because of the way that he has so impressed front-office executives in the league," Wojnarowski wrote on Wednesday. "Some top executives are watching his contract status closely, they've told Yahoo Sports, curious about Clifford's availability should a contract extension fail to materialize with Charlotte."
Clifford's a grinder who played Division III college ball and rose from a high school coach in Maine to his nightly seat on an NBA floor. He's brought a specific attitude and culture that Charlotte has struggled to find ever since the league returned to the city in 2004.
Wojnarowksi touches on all the benefits that Clifford has brought to the organization but also has anecdotes from stars Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson, including a statement from Jefferson that tabbed Clifford as the best teacher he's ever had in the NBA. There's also a spicy bit about Lance Stephenson's benching last season.
The future looked bright after Clifford's first season in Charlotte, but he recognizes now how critical this season will be for him, and so do other teams.