Initially thought to be on the hot seat entering the 2015-16 regular season, Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford is now sitting pretty.
According to the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell, the Hornets and Clifford, who was slated to be a coaching free agent, have come to terms on a contract extension that will keep him in Charlotte for the foreseeable future:
The Charlotte Hornets and coach Steve Clifford have come to an agreement on a multi-year extension, the Observer has learned.
The deal includes a three-year guarantee that would keep Clifford in his current role through the 2018-19 season. The Hornets have an option on the 2019-20 season, a source said. …
The Hornets are 8-6 this season. Clifford is 84-94 overall with the Hornets, having reached the playoffs in Clifford’s first season.
Clifford’s initial contract would have expired after this season. There was wide-spread speculation he would have been a candidate for possible openings with the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.
In no uncertain terms is Clifford’s newfound job security about anything other than the Hornets’ pleasant start to the season. Yes, he’s done some fantastic work in the past, specifically on the defensive side, but he’s really showcasing his versatility and sideline value now, as the Hornets continue to shift their identity.
Over the offseason, and aided in part by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s likely season-long absence, Charlotte became a more small-ball-friendly team. They’ve ditched a snail-paced system in favor of a moderately paced attack that’s heavy on playmaking forwards and three-point shooting. And it’s working.
Not only are the Hornets, against all logic, above .500 and still in the thick of the Eastern Conference’s playoff race, but they have the fourth-most efficient offense to date, according to Basketball-Reference. They may not hover around the top five in points scored per 100 possessions all season, but we’re deep enough into the schedule to where we must paint their points-pumping prowess as legitimate.
Credit must be doled out to the hot-shooting Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb and Marvin Williams. Al Jefferson is also his usual versatile self, and Jeremy Lin has been mostly good. But Clifford deserves just as much recognition for Charlotte’s about-face as anyone, if only because he’s raining all over the widespread belief that old-school coaches are unwilling and/or unable to embrace the NBA’s modern-day tenets.
Call this job security well-deserved.