The Bobcats weren’t the first team to hire their replacement coach this off season. That went to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had some old letterhead with Mike Brown’s name on it, and it was in comic sans so they just had to hurry up and use it. The Suns snatched up Jeff Hornacek, well they hired him, I’m not sure there was anyone else who was salivating for his services. The Bobcats have hired Steve Clifford, most recently of the Lakers bench, to be their next head coach.
It was a bit of a surprise as the search had been quiet in the last few days. There were only a few candidates so far and it wasn’t some pool and finalist structure as we had seen last season. Ahh, last season, when we all knew that Mike Dunlap would be the answer. Dunlap was fired a few weeks after the season. After the dust settled on the exit interviews where the players widely panned him, he was shown the door. Player development, whatever, it was either a bad hire or a bad firing, just to do it that quickly. Enter the candidates that everyone talks about: Brian Shaw (still working with the Pacers), Alvin Gentry (native of the area, fired mid-season with Suns), Kelvin Sampson (Rockets, etc), Nate McMillan, JB Bickerstaff (yikes) and don’t forget Quin Snider from last year. I don’t know who or how many had interviews but I think I read that both Sampson and Clifford were in town last Tuesday.
Tuesday, some work days, the weekend to hash out a deal and here we are, late Memorial Day with Steve Clifford being hired to stand on the moving walkway that is in front of the Bobcats bench. Sorry if I don’t sound so excited, new head coaches are a ritual of Spring in these parts. Mike Dunlap was supposed to develop players and he had such an interesting process and approach, I’m just getting over being excited for him. It’s kind of hard to get excited for a guy that I was moments ago told on Twitter “He’s the next Thibodeau.”
It’s true that Clifford has been attached, as was Tom Thibodeau, to the Van Gundy brothers. They worked together on the Rockets staff under Jeff and then later, Steve moved onto Orlando under Stan. He came up through very small colleges, but worked with Jeff in New York as an advance scout and then an assistant. That came after his biggest college job at East Carolina University as an assistant. Anyone in the state of North Carolina knows what a power house ECU is in basketball. As I saw on twitter, the guy started as a graduate assistant, coached high school and now he’s the head man of an NBA team (semi-NBA team).
The rumor I picked up was more interesting however, than whatever hopes you might pin on Steve. It would make sense that due to their time together in Orlando and New York that Clifford may want to wrest Patrick Ewing away from the Magic’s bench. That is, unless Ewing is hired as a head coach elsewhere.
Clifford is known to lean towards defense as his coaching strength. I don’t buy into coaches being “defensive” or “offensive” minded. It seems so cut and dried the way the NFL does with Offensive and Defensive coordinators. Hell, Don Nelson had some success with it in Golden State and you hear about it all the time. I just hope for a well rounded coach.
I don’t know much more than you do from a few Google searches. I can’t read into the hire as being more “Cho” or “Jordan” or any of it. I look forward to seeing what kind of coach Steve Clifford ends up being. If he’s no good, or not good enough or “not a good fit,” we’ll do this all over again next year. Hey, we’re getting a new mascot and team name, so why not?