The Charlotte Hornets got a pretty strong reaction for naming Steve Clifford the franchise’s new head coach a little over four years after relieving him of his duties. Reactions from outside the fan base have been pretty tame, but Hornets fans have generally received the news negatively. Today, Clifford and General Manager Mitch Kupchak sat down in front of the media for almost 30 minutes to talk about it.
The questions from the media were professional, but you could sense the confusion based on the phrasing of questions, and there were more than a few questions that could have made Clifford and Kupchak look foolish. The duo handled themselves well and said all the things Hornets fans would have wanted to hear.
On the decision to hire Clifford, Kupchak was very honest. He did not pretend like Clifford was the team’s plan A, and talked about how the team had to act quickly to find a plan B after Kenny Atkinson pulled the rug out from under the organization. He talked about the strong relationship he’s had with Clifford as a reason for having comfort hiring him in the abbreviated interview process. He also shared a funny anecdote about going out to dinner with Clifford after firing him, and at that dinner, Clifford offered to give Kupchack his Charlotte home since he wouldn’t be needing it any longer.
For Clifford’s part of the presser, he talked about what he expects from this team and where he’s grown as a coach. He talked about his different experiences as a head coach in Orlando and as a consultant in Brooklyn and how they’ve helped him gain new perspective. He acknowledged how much the game has changed since his first coaching stint here and talked about viewing the game differently than he did then. He wants the team to get better both defensively and offensively, and he wants the team to keep up with the pace and unselfishness they played with on the offensive end last season. That included praising LaMelo Ball and talking about the need to let him do what he does best.
Near the end of the press conference, Mitch Kupchak was asked about Miles Bridges impending free agency. He said he was limited in what he could say, but he praised Bridges and said “we’re going to bring him back.”
In all, they said all the right things. Clifford reassured the room that the Hornets offense wouldn’t be making any drastic changes to the approach that had them as one of the better offenses in the league for much of the season. He claims he’s evolved as a coach, implying he’s kept up with the ever changing style of the NBA game. Kupchak was seemingly honest about part two of the head coach hunt, and his unequivocal answer to the Miles Bridges question was extremely nice to hear.