Tom Sorensen

Steve Clifford is one of city’s best-ever coaches. Hornets still may need to fire him.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford is a heck of a coach. He took mostly substandard players and turned them into a team.
Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford is a heck of a coach. He took mostly substandard players and turned them into a team. AP

About the Charlotte Hornets: Do you see them bringing back head coach Steve Clifford next season? I don’t. Clifford is one of the best coaches that Charlotte, the city not the team, has ever had. And as much as I like and respect Clifford, I don’t think the Hornets will, and I don’t know if they should.

Clifford, 56, is a grinder. There’s nothing flashy about him. When the team made the transition from the Bobcats to the Hornets, and from orange and dark blue to purple and teal, a reporter saw Clifford’s orange tie and asked if he’d have to buy new ones. He tried to suppress a smile.

“You have only one tie, right?” I asked.

He said he had only one.

Clifford, who is in his fifth season with Charlotte, is a heck of a coach. He took mostly substandard players and turned them into a team. His teams played defense. Man, did they play defense. They treated the ball as if it was an heirloom, and they took care of it. His teams were always, and I mean always, better than their talent. Because of an absence of scoring, they had to be.

This season hasn’t worked. The defense hasn’t worked, not consistently. There comes a time, perhaps, when players stop listening to the message and to the coach.

The Hornets are looking for a new general manager, and man do they have to get this hire right. Whether Clifford returns or not, the GM will have to give the coach some players.

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

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