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Hornets coach Steve Clifford will reportedly step down at end of season, transition to front office role

The Charlotte Hornets will be hiring a new coach this summer.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Hornets head coach Steve Clifford will step down from his position at the end of the summer. He will not leave the organization, but will stay on in a front office role, which is reportedly in the process of being finalized.

The Hornets underwent an ownership transition less than a year ago. Michael Jordan sold his majority stake in the team to an ownership group led Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin in Aug. 2023, and they hired a new executive vice president of basketball operations, Jeff Peterson.

While new owners typically want to bring in new coaches that fully represent their philosophy, Wojnarowski reported that Schnall, Plotkin and Peterson were all open to bringing Clifford back for the 2024-25 season. Clifford, in his second tour of duty with the Hornets and about to finish his 10th year as a head coach, is reportedly the one who put the kibosh on returning. According to Wojnarowski, Clifford "decided he wasn't prepared to commit to the year-round grind of head coaching for the 2024-2025 season."

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - JANUARY 22: Head coach Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets looks on against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first quarter at Target Center on January 22, 2024 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Hornets defeated the Timberwolves 128-125. 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. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Hornets head coach Steve Clifford is reportedly stepping down from his position at the end of the season. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) (David Berding via Getty Images)

While some offers of post-coaching, front office positions are merely ways to make it appear a coach is leaving on good terms, this one appears to be wholehearted. Via Wojnarowski:

Peterson, who worked with Clifford in Brooklyn, and ownership are eager to create an adviser position that would allow Clifford to remain in Charlotte and impact all parts of the organization, sources said.

Clifford, 62, reportedly told his assistants and players on Wednesday about his decision to step down. He'll coach the Hornets' final seven games of the season starting Wednesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Hornets envisioned a much different season than the one they've just lived through. They're currently 18-57, which is definitely not an improvement over last season's 27-55 record (Clifford's first season), largely due to injuries. LaMelo Ball was lost for the season after just 22 games. Cody Martin has played just 28 games this season (which is an improvement over the seven games he played last season). Seth Curry played only eight games after he was traded. They have talent, but haven't been able to put that together with durability to have any sustained success.

Clifford's decision to step down now is directly related to the success the team hopes to have in the future. According to ESPN, Clifford wanted to tell the team early so they could start their search early, which would allow them to interview the top coaching candidates on the market.