The Charlotte Hornets have hired Steve Clifford to be their new head coach.
ESPN Sources: Steve Clifford has agreed to a deal to return as the Charlotte Hornets’ coach. Clifford, one of league’s most respected coaches among his peers, led Hornets to two playoff trips in a five-year run that ended in 2018.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 24, 2022
Clifford makes his return to Charlotte after spending five seasons with the Bobcats and Hornets from 2013 to 2018. During that time, he made two playoff appearances, losing in the first round both times, and finished with a regular-season record of 196-214 (47.8%).
After departing from Charlotte in 2018, Clifford went on to become the coach of the Orlando Magic. He coached there for two seasons, reaching the playoffs in two (again, two first-round exits) and finishing with a regular-season record of 96-131.
The 60-year-old spent last season with the Brooklyn Nets. He was a “coaching consultant” and described his job as training camp work, a ton of film study, and visits with the team once or twice a month.
Clifford is known for his defensive-minded approach. During his time in Orlando, the Magic were a well-respected defensive team, finishing with a top-11 defensive rating in two of his three seasons (the two seasons before Orlando gutted their roster).
In addition, Clifford has been known to favor NBA-ready players in an attempt to put the best team on the floor at all times. This could potentially make it more difficult for some of Charlotte’s younger prospects to see playing time, as Clifford will undoubtedly be focused on leading the Hornets to their first playoff appearance since 2016.