Tom Sorensen

Jerry Stackhouse’s Tar Heel ties shouldn’t matter for Hornets. Look beyond the blue.

Former North Carolina basketball player Jerry Stackhouse, right, drives against a squad of former Kentucky players during a 2015 basketball fund-raiser in Lexington, Ky. Stackhouse is among the names being mentioned for the open Charlotte Hornets coaching position.
Former North Carolina basketball player Jerry Stackhouse, right, drives against a squad of former Kentucky players during a 2015 basketball fund-raiser in Lexington, Ky. Stackhouse is among the names being mentioned for the open Charlotte Hornets coaching position. AP

Every NBA team looking for a head coach apparently has discovered Jerry Stackhouse, the former North Carolina star.

If the Charlotte Hornets hire him, this will mean that the team’s owner, Michael Jordan, is a Tar Heel; the general manager, Mitch Kupchak, is a Tar Heel; the assistant general manager, Buzz Peterson, is a Tar Heel; and the head coach will be a Tar Heel.

Collect the whole set.

If the Hornets become even more light blue, fans of Duke, N.C. State and everybody else probably will be offended. But if the Hornets win and entertain and improve — and to win, they have to improve — most fans will cease to cling to true-to-their-school grudges. All right, some will cling to grudges. But for most, NBA success will supersede college rivalries.

The Hornets, then called the Bobcats, drafted two North Carolina players in the first round of the 2005 draft. They took Raymond Felton fifth and Sean May 13th.

I remember talking to an acquaintance that worked for the Bobcats, and I asked if he thought the acquisition of Felton and May would impact attendance.

He said: “Before Raymond and Sean, we made calls to sell tickets. Now they’ll call us.”

For a few weeks, fans probably did. But as good as May was at North Carolina, he washed out of the NBA. Felton, 33, has played for seven teams and had two separate stints with the New York Knicks. He now plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Some Charlotte fans insist on famous coaches. If you’re not well-known, you therefore aren’t good.

Hire Jon Gruden to coach the Carolina Panthers! No, hire Bill Cowher! Hire Marc Jackson to coach the Hornets! No, hire Monty Williams! What the heck, hire Cowher! He must be good! He’s on TV!

Basketball is full of coaches that have washed out, and some should be hired again and some shouldn’t.

Stackhouse2016File
If the Charlotte Hornets hire Jerry Stackhouse, right, that means team owner Michael Jordan, general manager Mitch Kupchak, assistant GM Buzz Peterson and the head coach will be a former North Carolina Tar Heel. Does all that Carolina blue matter? David Zalubowski AP

Steve Clifford, whom the Hornets fired last week, will be better in his second turn as an NBA head coach than he was in his first. And he was good in his first. The Hornets fired Clifford not because he attended college in Maine instead of Chapel Hill, but because the Hornets’ 2017-18 season was abysmal. Clifford had little to work with. But the passion with which his teams played the last four seasons often was absent in this one.

Before Clifford, Charlotte’s head coaches were temps. Instead of buying, they would have been wise to rent. Clifford rented.

Clifford had never been an NBA head coach. Despite last season, he succeeded. Players respected him and so did fans. His teams were better than their talent.

Stackhouse, meanwhile, has coached the Toronto Raptors’ G-League team. Away from the bright lights and in front of small crowds, he’s had an opportunity to develop his craft.

If Jordan and Kupchak believe that Stackhouse, 43, is the next successful NBA coach, the way Golden State correctly believed Steve Kerr was, then pursue him. Take him to dinner. Show him the town.

You can all dress in Tar Heel blue if you choose. Where you were doesn’t matter. What matters is where you’re going.

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

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