Left at the altar by Kenny Atkinson just one week ago, the Hornets have officially decided on their next head coach.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Steve Clifford has agreed to a deal to become Charlotte’s head coach. The same headline could have been written back in 2013, when Clifford was hired as the then Bobcats head coach, before the franchise became the Hornets in 2014.
This will indeed be Clifford’s second go-round in Charlotte, after guiding the Hornets to two playoff appearances in five years (2013-18). Clifford, 60, was fired after the 2017-18 season, accumulating a 196-214 record. He then went on to coach the Magic from 2018-21, taking Orlando to the postseason twice and finishing 96-131 for his tenure. The two parties agreed to part ways after the 2020-21 campaign. He spent last season as a consultant for the Nets.
Clifford never seemed like a likely candidate for the opening, after Charlotte fired head coach James Borrego after the season. Atkinson had agreed to become the next head coach, but later backed out and elected to remain an assistant on the Warriors’ coaching staff under Steve Kerr. At the time of Atkinson’s 180-turn, former longtime head coaches Mike D’Antoni and Terry Stotts were said to be the frontrunners.
The job ends up going to Clifford, who will look to get the Hornets back into the playoffs for the first time since his initial departure. The Hornets finished 43-39 this past season, falling to the Hawks, 132-103, in the play-in game.