Sources: Clifford stepping down as Hornets coach

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Steve Clifford is stepping down as the Charlotte Hornets’ coach at the end of the season and is working to finalize a front office role with the franchise, sources told ESPN.

Clifford, who informed his assistants and players of the news Wednesday morning, will coach the Hornets’ final seven games beginning Wednesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers, sources said.

Charlotte’s new executive vice president of basketball operations Jeff Peterson and co-owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin were open to bringing him back as coach next season, but Clifford, 62, decided he wasn’t prepared to commit to the year-round grind of head coaching for the 2024-2025 season, sources said.

Clifford didn’t want to hinder the franchise’s ability to compete for the top young coaches available in the marketplace, and it allows the Hornets to begin an immediate search for his successor, sources said.

The Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards — who both have interim head coaches — are expected to join the Hornets in coaching searches in the offseason.

Sources told ESPN that Boston’s Charles Lee, Sacramento’s Jordi Fernandez, Miami’s Chris Quinn, Phoenix’s Kevin Young and others are among the league’s assistant coaching candidates expected to be considered in the Charlotte process.

The Hornets have been beset with injuries and absences in Clifford’s return to Charlotte over the past two seasons. All-Star guard LaMelo Ball played only 22 games before being shut down for the season.

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. Those details are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks, sources said.

In 10 seasons with Charlotte and Orlando as a head coach, Clifford is 337-457 with four trips to the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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