Hornets coach Steve Clifford to step down, but team’s future seems bright

    Steve Clifford is stepping down as Charlotte Hornets head coach with the aim of taking a front-office role with the team at the end of the regular season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday.

    This move shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans of the Hornets (18-57), a franchise in transition. 

    In August, new owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin purchased a majority stake from Michael Jordan. In February, they hired Jeff Peterson to replace Mitch Kupchak as president of basketball operations. 

    Now the team will look for the next head coach to lead a young core in Charlotte with great potential. 

    While the losses have piled up, rookie guard Brandon Miller and forward Miles Bridges give Hornets fans reasons for optimism. 

    Miller, the second pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, is averaging 17 points and earned Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month three times this season.  

    Meanwhile, Bridges — who missed all of 2022-23 and the first 10 games of the 2023-24 season due to legal issues — is leading the team in points (21.4 PPG) and assists (3.4 APG). He is a free agent after this season but seems interested in staying in Charlotte long term. 

    The biggest concern for the future in the Queen City is the health of guard LaMelo Ball.

    Ball, who signed a five-year, $260 million extension before the season, played in just 22 games this season before the team shut him down due to an ankle injury. He averaged a career-best 23.9 points. 

    With Ball, Bridges and Miller, the Hornets need a coach who can manage multiple alpha personalities. If they find the right person, the future of the Hornets will be the brightest it has been in a long time. 

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