Is Steve Clifford, Act II, Nearing Its End With Hornets?

Coach Steve Clifford and the Charlotte Hornets have been together for quite some time, with only a short break in there. Is another break on the way?Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets, NBA

It sort of feels that way.

Though not much fault of his own, Clifford and the Hornets have had another season to forget. Injuries to the likes of LaMelo Ball and others can do that.

But guess who often takes the blame for injuries and losses? That’s right. The coach. 

Charlotte (18-55) had a decent win over the Cavaliers earlier in the week, but was run out of its own building against the Warriors on Friday night. 

Again, the Hornets have been decimated with players missing games and traded top scoring option Terry Rozier to the Heat in February. They have been playing for the draft lottery since then. You can hardly blame Clifford for the struggles.

Also, rookie forward Brandon Miller is a dynamic young player who’s been at his best in the season’s second half. He’s burst through anything resembling the so-called rookie wall. So that’s a positive. 

Beyond that, though, Clifford has a lot of things working against him.

Along with the Hornets not winning — and occasionally not even being competitive — there’s a new head of basketball operations in town. That would be Jeff Peterson, who came over from the Nets in February, replacing Mitch Kupchak.

New GMs tend to want to bring in their own coach, even when things are going OK. In Charlotte, they are far from OK.

Clifford coached Charlotte from 2013-18, and then the Magic for three years, before returning to the Hornets. They sport a record of just 45-110 in his two years back.

Several league sources have told Hoops Wire they haven’t heard anything about Clifford’s status beyond this season. One said he wouldn’t be surprised if Clifford is let go, considering the new GM is there. Another said he hopes Clifford gets another season because he’s a good coach and a fantastic person.

That is true. Clifford is a great guy, the type you’d want to have over for dinner to just talk basketball. The Hornets players reportedly admire him.

But none of that has anything to do with keeping your job, unfortunately. Clifford has a lot working against him, fair or not. And in the NBA, it’s usually not.

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