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Steve Clifford to step down as Hornets head coach after 2023-24 season

Steve Clifford
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

Steve Clifford to step down as Hornets head coach after 2023-24 season

After two seasons as the Charlotte Hornets head coach, Steve Clifford will step down at the end of the 2023-24 season and transition into a front office role, ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Wednesday.

The last two seasons marked Clifford’s second stint as the head coach of Charlotte, previously being their head coach from 2013-2018. Over his last two seasons with the Hornets, the team–in a very clear rebuilding stage–is 45-112 (.287).

To further contextualize, they have only had Brandon Miller for one season; budding young center Mark Williams has played in only 39.5 percent of the team’s games while LaMelo Ball’s only played 36.9 percent of them, both due to injury; they also traded away Mason Plumlee, Kelly Oubre Jr., Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington away over the last 14 months.

All in all, it’s not like Clifford, one of the league’s more respected defensive minds, has had much to work with–he hasn’t.

“This is the appropriate time for me to step down,” Clifford said in a statement released by the team, according to Wojnarowski. “I believe this is best for me and the organization. I’m excited about the future of the Hornets — our young core of players, Jeff’s leadership of our basketball operations and Rick and Gabe’s vision for the organization. I want to thank all the Hornets players and staff for their work the past two seasons and our Hornets fans for their continued support of our team.”

According to Wojnarowski, Boston’s Charles Lee, Sacramento’s Jordi Fernandez, Miami’s Chris Wuinn and Phoenix’s Kevin Young are expected to be among the listed candidates for the gig. The team was purchased by Gabe Plotkin and Rich Schanll last August and they recently hired young general manager Jeff Peterson–who had a previous working relationship with Clifford–in late February.

“Dating back to our time together in Brooklyn, I have a tremendous amount of appreciation for Coach Cliff, and I understand his decision to step down,” Peterson said in a statement. “His basketball knowledge, teaching ability and work ethic are well-respected throughout the NBA. He has had to endure some very difficult circumstances the past two years, and yet our players have continued to compete, work hard and develop. On behalf of the entire Hornets organization, I want to thank Steve for all his efforts, and we look forward to having him remain a part of the organization.

“While Steve will continue to coach the team for the remainder of the season, we will immediately begin the search process for our next head coach. We will look to hire someone that shares our values and vision in developing our young core and creating a culture and identity based on teamwork, accountability and competitiveness. We will conduct a thorough search process to select the best head coach for the Hornets moving forward.”

In 10 combined seasons with the Hornets and Magic, Clifford is 337-457 as head coach, including 241-326 with Charlotte. His teams have made the postseason four times, most recently with the Orlando Magic in 2019-20.

Who do you think the next Hornets head coach should be? Let us know in the comments!

***

This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.

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