Bobcats to hire Lakers assistant Steve Clifford as next head coach « Queen City Hoops

Bobcats to hire Lakers assistant Steve Clifford as next head coach

Charlotte has hired their 3rd coach in the last 3 seasons with Steve Clifford. Unlike the last hire, Clifford does possess quite a bit of NBA coaching experience. He coached with Stan Van Gundy in Orlando, Jeff Van Gundy in Houston and Mike Brown + Mike D’Antoni with the Lakers. Clifford has been an assistant throughout the NBA for 13 years.

Steve Clifford has drawn many Tom Thibodeau comparisons due to the fact that he’s a defensive minded coach and he coached with Thibs on Jeff Van Gundy’s staff in Houston.

“When you work with a guy for a while, you just know when he has “it,” and this guy has ‘it.’ When he gets his opportunity, he’ll knock it out of the park.” — Jeff Van Gundy on Clifford.

“But I’ve always said – Some GM is going to make a lot of money off Clifford because he is going to get the maximum level output from his team, and the organization will benefit greatly from that.” — Jeff Van Gundy on Clifford.

Clifford’s contract is reportedly worth $6 million over 3 seasons, with the final season being a team option. Clifford is also expected to bring Patrick Ewing with him to Charlotte to be a member of the coaching staff, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.

Let’s go roundtable with the QCH Panel and dissect what to expect from Steve Clifford in Charlotte –

3-on-3 TrueHoop Network1- Tell us what impresses you the most with Clifford?

Spencer: The accolades that he’s receiving from the rest of the NBA coaching fraternity. Some of the comments that the Van Gundy contingency are making is extremely encouraging and suggests that Clifford knows what he’s doing in this league — although I still believe that Dunlap is a very good coach and probably should have gotten one more year, it’s encouraging that Charlotte now has a coach who has experience in this league + has a reputation of getting the most out of individuals in a much more egotistical saturated environment.

I’m a sucker for defense, so I’m probably most excited about the fact that this is the area we will see the most improvement in. It didn’t seem as if Dunlap was able to get consistent effort/energy from players, but if the rumblings about Clifford being a player’s coach who can get maximum effort from more guys than not are true, then we’ll see immediate defensive improvement — regardless of the scheme.

Greg: Clifford seems to have a pretty solid resume; he’s coached under both of the Van Gundy brothers, and caught on with the Lakers as a top assistant after Stan Van Gundy’s tenure in Orlando ended. He’s not a high-profile assistant like Mike Malone or Brian Shaw, but he has a lot of experience under some top-flight coaches. At the very least, he should have a better sense than Mike Dunlap of what makes sense and what doesn’t in the pro game.

Mathew: What impresses me most is the amount of time he’s spent coaching under a host of successful defensive-minded coaches such as Jeff Van Gundy. Given the years he’s put in as an NBA assistant, he appears adequately prepared for the challenge that is the Charlotte Bobcats head coaching position.

2- What drastic change should fans expect in Charlotte with the implementation of Steve Clifford?

Spencer: Defensive style. Clifford appears to be an old school style of coach in the sense that he wants his teams to be very disciplined and tight on the defensive end — he was strictly the defensive coordinator for D’Antoni and the Lakers. As you see with Thibs teams in Chicago, they rotate defensively as well, if not better, than any team in the league. I’m not suggesting that Clifford will come in and have Charlotte looking like the Bulls on the defensive end, but if he draws comparisons to the style of Thibs + has a reputation of getting maximum effort/being a players coach, we’ll likely see vast improvement defensively.

Greg: It’s difficult to find much information on Clifford’s preferred style, but it makes sense that he’d try to install a system similar to the one he helped run in Orlando. Here’s how Eddy Rivera at Magic Basketball summed up that team’s defensive philosophyin the past:

With Dwight Howard manning the middle, some of the Magic’s defensive tenets are as followed: limit shot opportunities at the rim, don’t foul as to prevent free-throw opportunities, and coerce as many jumpshots as possible. Also, rebounding the basketball and getting back in transition (thus sacrificing chances for offensive rebounds) are things that matter a great deal to Van Gundy. Rarely will you see Orlando try and go for steals, for example, because Van Gundy would rather rely on fundamentals on defense than gamble and be out of position.

On offense, the Magic relied heavily on three-pointers and installed shooters at every position but center. Clifford won’t have the luxury of Dwight Howard or many long-range specialists with the current Bobcats, so it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to their roster. A better-organized defense will probably be the most immediate change.

Mathew: Better defense. The NBA’s final four post-season teams all finished in the top seven in Defensive Efficiency, with the Pacers and Grizzlies boasting the League’s best two ratings. It’s not a sexy sell to the team’s fans but this is the direction the NBA is headed. There are certain to be more Tom Thibodeau’s and less Mike D’Antoni’s moving forward. The Bobcats finished dead last in Defensive Efficiency last season. Of course a team needs the right players to execute lock-down defense, but coaching matters. Look for Coach Clifford to immediately put his stamp on the defensive end of the court.

3- Will Clifford last 3 years (contractual agreement)?

Spencer: I don’t think Charlotte has a choice but to allow Clifford a fair amount of time. At some point, the organization is going to have to be invested in a coach and allow him time to prove his system can work. With a roster like Charlotte’s, it’s obviously not reasonable to expect results overnight (still why I’m confused about Dunlap firing), but I think that the front office feels as if they truly have ‘their guy’ now.

Remember this — this is the hire that the team has made on the heels of the announcement of returning to the Hornets + one year prior to a draft that could field the team 3 1st round draft picks. Those factors would suggest that Cho & Higgins truly perceive Clifford as the man to help Charlotte turn the corner in this exhausting rebuilding effort.

Greg: I don’t see why not. You can look at the Dunlap firing and say that management has an itchy trigger finger, but I’m not sure they were ever that happy with the hire in the first place. It came after two of their top candidates, Brian Shaw and Jerry Sloan, removed themselves from the running. It’s always possible that it doesn’t work out, but Clifford won’t have the extreme learning curve that Dunlap had. That alone gives him a better shot at sticking around.

Mathew: I’ll say yes. The third year is a team option, but I’ll continue to be play the role of optimist and say Cho & Co. know what they’re doing this time. As Greg noted, there’s plenty of evidence out there that suggests the team was not all that thrilled last year when they brought Coach Dunlap on board. Was Clifford the Bobcats’ first choice this time around? Who knows, but he boasts infinitely more NBA experience and seems to generally be held in relatively high regard across the League. I say he’s in the market to buy, not rent – well, at least rent to own.

16 comments to Bobcats to hire Lakers assistant Steve Clifford as next head coach

  • Kurt

    Any chance that Clifford is able to get Dwight Howard to follow him to the Hornets? Could this be the splash that MJ would want to make to draw fans in? I’m not wild about Howard’s personality and drive at all though.

    He would be the big fish in the small pond that the talking heads say he needs to be.

  • charlottean

    ehh NO. I wouldn’t want him if we could have him. Too much of a diva. We want indiana/memphis/san antonio style guys. and we look to be building those kind of guys. not to mention he’s 27

    I’d much rather have noel than howard right now.

  • Edmond

    D-12 is sketch… Maxed out salary, having chronic back problems, extremely bad attitude, and the guy wants to win. I guess I like the Clifford hire, but for the most part, I just have an ‘ eh… ‘ attitude.

  • gsocatsfan

    For it. Totally for it. Can’t lie about being a little disappointed they continue to pass me up for the job, but still very optimistic.

    My question: how does this change our draft strategy? Seems more and more likely that Thrift Shop is going to fall to us based on other teams’ needs. He might not be where the Depot is defensively but MKG and Walker could totally take him under their wing and really light a fire under him. We could easily expect a MKG type year out of him, but he’s young, and who cares, everyone who matters is young and the real season starts after next years draft.

  • charlottean

    i highly doubt orlando passes on mclemore. i think the noel-mclemore-porter order is going to solidify over the next few weeks.

    i like zeller a whole lot more than I like oladipo. I just don’t think you can find zeller quality 5′s easily where you can find oladipo late in the draft with regularity (see lance stephenson). even saric has more value (assuming he’s coming over immediately) but preferrably you trade back to get him. drafting saric would be like getting mullens with balls and a handle. which would probably be a great fit next to biyombo.

  • charlottean

    luke? he sure as hell didn’t show in college he was better than tyler or cody AND he’s coming off stress fracture surgery on his ankle. when you see tyler start in the NBA competently as a rookie and KNOW that his younger brother is better AND 3 years younger AND has more weight to throw around. It’s hard to logically argue against drafting the guy 4th.

    I need some examples of these big men that came out early like len and had success after doing little to nothing in college. thabeet? mullens? daniel orton? patrick o’bryant? or even guys that stayed 4 years doing nothing like hilton armstrong. I don’t see precedent for a guy like len. the closest thing I can come up with in recent memory would be noah or horford and that’s because they were playing TOGETHER and winning championships. even speights gave you more than len did. randolph and hickson gave you way more.

    where is the precedent for a guy like len having success? Is he an nba quality big? absolutely. top 10 pick? no effing way. dude is luc longley or kendrick perkins AT BEST. even zeller is no stud hall of fame caliber center but he’s andrew bogut. he’s ATLEAST hibbert.

  • Kurt

    If it’s true that Ewing is coming along, I think Zeller could be a good backup pick. He moves pretty well, can catch the ball, and can run. Learn a few moves from Ewing and figure how to use his size to score more efficiently. Len worries me because he was usually so much bigger than his competition and could just bully his way around.

    Zeller reminds me of an upgraded Nick Collison. Decent defense, high energy, hustle, and way more athleticism. And can hit FTs.

  • Spencer/SDS

    anybody know anything about this kid Saric from Croatia, he’s popping up more and more, a Gallinari type player

  • charlottean

    rather go gobert than saric. saric seems a lot like vesely who you can have for free right now. big guy with a handle who can’t quite shoot. but I haven’t seen enough to stand by that assessment 100%. he seems more like a draft and stash guy.

  • Spencer/SDS

    k, kinda had the same impression when seeing him play, but wanted anothers opinion

  • Kurt

    Another quick note on Zeller, Chad Ford from ESPN just tweeted that Cody shot 72% from the NBA 3 today in drills. Granted, it’s not in-game and we don’t need a 2nd Mullens, but still impressive.

  • Spencer/SDS

    @kurt…Jeffery Taylor in a pre game-I kept track, made 9 3′s in a row in the left corner and in total only missed 4 out of 23 attempts (against the bucks)…83%, Its in the same spot so it isn’t as impressive but seriously shooting with no one defending is completely different then in game, especially at the NBA level

    although it is nice to show he can stretch the floor if need be, if we got him i’d rather he be a Kevin Garnett/Chris Bosh shooter, meaning lots of mid range and few 3s but can shoot and make them if need be, just because you can doesn’t mean you should^^

  • charlottean

    you comparing a 2/3 guy (taylor) with zeller is impressive on its own.

    dwight howard can’t hit 72% free throws in practice.

  • Kurt

    ^was kind of my point. He’s 6’11″ and it wasn’t known he had that shot in college. Not that he’s going to be asked to use it all the time, but the fact he can hit it, is an added bonus.