David Fizdale Reportedly Favorite for Hornets HC Job After Steve Clifford Firing

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2018

MEMPHIS, TN - OCTOBER 30:  Head Coach David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies watching his team during a game against the Charlotte Hornets at the FedEx Forum on October 30, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  The Hornets defeated the Grizzlies 104-99.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale is reportedly a "leading candidate" to replace Steve Clifford with the Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets announced Clifford's exit Friday morning. Mitch Lawrence of SiriusXM NBA Radio reported the organization started a background check on Fizdale even before confirming the firing.

Fizdale arrived in Memphis in May 2016 after spending 14 years as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat.

The 43-year-old Los Angeles native guided the Grizz to a 43-39 record and a playoff berth during his first season in charge. They were ousted by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, however, and he was fired after a 7-12 start to the current campaign.

His departure from the Grizzlies came one day after he benched star center Marc Gasol for the fourth quarter of a November loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

"I took a risk. Sometimes, when you take a risk, you may piss off a player or two," Fizdale told reporters. "That's part of this position. But I can own the decision and have my reasons why."

If he lands with the Hornets, he'd inherit a roster that's set to return most of the players from a 36-46 team, led by Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard. Michael Carter-Williams is the team's only notable unrestricted free agent.

One key offseason addition would likely be enough to push Charlotte into the postseason next year. At least that would be the expectation for the new head coach, whether it's Fizdale or someone else.