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.