Rod Higgins and Rich Cho formally introduce Steve Clifford as the new Bobcats Head Coach pic.twitter.com/tYapOpyHa8— Charlotte Bobcats (@bobcats) May 29, 2013
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski had the news first:
Lakers assistant Steve Clifford has reached an agreement in principle to become the Charlotte coach, league sources tell Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 27, 2013
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne also notes that one of his assistants could be following him across the country:
Dont be surprised if Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham follows Steve Clifford to Charlotte— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 27, 2013
While Clifford has no major head-coaching experience—other than a successful four-year stint at Division II Adelphi University—he was garnering lots of attention from the Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns.
In the end, however, Michael Jordan and Rich Cho were able to land their guy.
Before spending last season with the Lakers, Clifford coached on the sidelines of the Orlando Magic from 2007 to 2012. Before that, he was an assistant with the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks dating back to 2001.
How would you grade this hire by the Bobcats?
According to the Los Angeles Times, he models his coaching style after Tom Thibodeau and looks up to both of the Van Gundy brothers—he was an assistant to Stan in Orlando and Jeff in Houston and New York—as mentors.
As such, he is expected to bring a defensive attitude to the Bobcats, who surrendered 102.7 points per game (second worst in the league) last season and went 21-61 (also second worst). The Bobcats fired Mike Dunlap in April, making Clifford Charlotte's third head coach in three seasons.
During Clifford's time in Orlando, the Magic went 259-135 (.657), made it to the 2009 NBA Finals and finished in the top 10 defensively in his last four seasons.
Combine his experience with a focus on defense that Charlotte has lacked recently, and this could be the hire the Bobcats—a team with intriguing talent on the perimeter and a top-five pick in the upcoming draft—desperately need to bring them out of the cellar.