Tom Sorensen

Hornets coach Steve Clifford paid a price for his dedication. But there’s a payoff.

When John Fox coached the Carolina Panthers, I asked him how many hours he worked a week during the season. He needed a calculator. The job consumes. Coaching an NBA team consumes.

What Charlotte Hornets’ coach Steve Clifford had to offer, he offered to his job and his team. He paid for it. His body and brain finally said no more, and he was compelled to step away. If he could have avoided leaving, he would have. He was gone almost six weeks.

I wonder how many people read Rick Bonnell’s strong piece about Clifford in the Observer Saturday and said: ‘Oops. That’s me.’

Our jobs demand our best. So we invest our time and emotion, and allow our work to define us. We become what we do.

Clifford is divorced. I don’t think Stephanie Rivera, wife of Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera, would allow him to become his job. I interviewed Ron one morning as he ate breakfast. He had two little cups of yogurt. He’s a former NFL linebacker, and in his hands the cups looked like teacups. He did not seem to enjoy them. One sensed the early morning cuisine was not his idea.

In Clifford’s return as head coach Wednesday, the Hornets play at home against the Washington Wizards. The game is the first of five straight at Spectrum Center. They have only 13 more home games the rest of the season.

The Hornets are a team of moments. They look good and coax you into attempting to believe, and then lose a close game at home to a team they ought to beat. I’d love to see them make the playoffs, even if they are the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and open against the Boston Celtics.

If they string together a winning streak, they at least can contend. And they can do it with a head coach who, more than at any time in his 18-season NBA career, will offer everything he has – including, finally, perspective.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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