After five seasons, Steve Clifford has been fired as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets.
The NBA coaching carousel is starting to spin, with the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic already firing their head coaches in the less than 48 hours since the regular season ended. Now the Charlotte Hornets can be added to the list, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting they have fired Steve Clifford.
The Hornets missed the playoffs for the second straight year this year, with matching 36-46 records, and they were 196-214 with two playoff berths over Clifford’s five seasons as coach. Former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was hired as team president and general manager just five days ago, and he’s already taken a big step toward shaping the organization in a new vision under owner Michael Jordan.
Clifford took a leave of absence for several weeks during the season due to a bout with headaches and insomnia, but he seems to have gotten a grip on those issues. At 56 years old, with a solid resume as an assistant before becoming Hornets’ coach in 2013, Clifford could now be a candidate for multiple other head coaching jobs around the league.
For Kupchak, firing Clifford and hiring a new head coach might be his easiest, most straight-forward offseason move. Trade rumors surrounding Kemba Walker are sure to ramp up again, with multiple teams interested. A batch of bad contracts left behind by former general manager Rich Cho will make it challenging to make any other moves, so a real rebuild may have to start with moving Walker as he enters the final year of his contract.
The Hornets have been in an awkward middle ground, with between 33 and 48 wins during Clifford’s tenure and a least 36 wins in four of those seasons. A move one way or another is coming, with a new head coach to help execute the plan.