First, the name change to the Hornets in 2014-15. Now, the Charlotte Bobcats have reportedly hired Steve Clifford as their new head coach.
This was the latest development in owner Michael Jordan’s franchise as reported by a source to ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne. ESPN says the contract is for three years valued at a total of $6 million with a team option for the third year.
Current NBA broadcaster and former New York Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy said he’s known Clifford since they coached together at the Jim Boehim camp in Syracuse in 1985 and called him a “person with impeccable integrity.”
“He’s a brilliant basketball coach who relates to all kinds of people well and I think he will do an absolutely fantastic job with the talent at hand. I’m so happy for one of the good guys in the league to get this opportunity.”
As per Sports Ilustrated, Clifford recently interviewed for the Milwaukee Bucks’ open head coaching position. The Phoenix Suns also reportedly asked permission from the Los Angeles Lakers (where he served as an assistant this past season) to speak with him. Last year, Clifford was one of the finalists for the Portland Trail Blazers’ head coaching position which eventually went to Terry Stotts.
According to Satchel Price of SB Nation, prior to his assistant coaching stint with the Lakers in 2012, Clifford spent five years with the Orlando Magic. He’s also had assistant coaching stints with the Houston Rockets and Knicks. He was a head coach at NCAA Division II’s Adelphi University but has never been an NBA head coach prior to being hired by the Bobcats.
Steve Reed of the Associated Press asserts that Charlotte Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said in mid-April that he and general manager Rick Cho met with the players and then-head coach Mike Dunlap before approaching owner Michael Jordan and asking him to make a coaching change.
Reed also says the Bobcats “seemed to place an emphasis on finding a defensive-minded coach after finishing near the bottom of the league in most defensive categories last season.”
Dunlap finished just 21-61 in his only season as Bobcats head coach.