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Steve Clifford Agrees to Return As Hornets Coach

For the second time in franchise history, the Hornets are hiring Steve Clifford as their head coach. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the news before Charlotte confirmed the return. 

“We are pleased to welcome Steve back to our franchise,” said Mitch Kupchak, the franchise’s president of basketball operations and general manager. “We believe that his previous experience and coaching philosophy make him the best coach for our team. Steve has a proven track record of improving defenses and is detail oriented. He has a history of maximizing players’ talent and working with them to develop and expand their skill sets. 

“Steve is committed to playing with the same offensive pace that our fans are accustomed to seeing the last few years. We are confident that he will be able to help our young players continue to grow as we look to take the next step as a team.”

Clifford’s first head coaching opportunity was with Charlotte in 2013 after 13 years as an assistant coach in the NBA. In five seasons leading the Hornets, Clifford coached the team to two playoff appearances in ’14 and ’16, which was the last time the organization played in the playoffs.

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After Charlotte fired him in 2018, Clifford became the Magic head coach for the next three seasons. However, he failed to reach the postseason in any of those years and Orlando let him go following the 2020-21 season.

“I’m happy to be returning to Charlotte, and I want to thank Michael Jordan, Mitch Kupchak and Buzz Peterson for this opportunity,” Clifford said in a statement. “This is an exciting young team with a lot of talented pieces. Charlotte is a great city and I know first-hand the passion that Hornets fans have for this franchise. I can’t wait to get back to town and start working with our players.”

The Hornets fired James Borrego, who originally replaced Clifford, in April after four seasons with the organization. Borrego led Charlotte to a 43-39 record, his best with the team, but lost in the play-in tournament for the second straight season

Charlotte was planning on hiring Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson, but Atkinson backed out of the job after the Warriors won the NBA Championship last week.

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