BREAKING: Steve Clifford to step down as Hornets head coach

Los Angeles Clippers v Charlotte Hornets
Los Angeles Clippers v Charlotte Hornets / Jacob Kupferman/GettyImages

In the midst of yet another challenging season, the Charlotte Hornets have now lost Steve Clifford for the second time in six seasons, as the team's head coach will step down at the end of the season, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Woj goes on to state that this decisions was solely Clifford's as Charlotte’s new EVP of Basketball Operations Jeff Peterson and co-owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin were all open to the idea of Clifford's return. In the end, it was Clifford who decided he wasn't ready for another year of the head coaching grind.

Steve Clifford to step down as Charlotte Hornets head coach

Clifford's time in Charlotte has been marred with mediocrity, but it was not for any lack on Clifford's part. In his original tenure with the team, from 2013–2018, Clifford led the Hornets to two playoff appearances, highlighted by the team's 48-win season in 2015–16.

This season saw far less success for the Hornets, who have dealt with significant injuries all year, keeping star LaMelo Ball to just 22 games and Mark Williams to 19 games. Then there is also the matter of the team trading away Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward at the NBA trade deadline.

Simply put, this has not been the Hornets' year, nor has it been for some time. The future remains bright with players like Brandon Miller, Ball, and Williams around, but it will not be Clifford who guides them on their path moving forward.

Charlotte will now begin the search for the team's fourth head coach (technically third, different as Clifford pulled the ol' Grover Cleveland) since the franchise returned to its original moniker in 2014. Of those 11 years, Clifford has coached the team for over half, but it's now time to prepare for life without him at the helm.

According to Wojnarowski, the early candidates to replace Clifford include Jordi Fernandez of the Sacramento Kings, Charles Lee of the Boston Celtics, Chris Quinn of the Miami Heat, and Kevin Young of the Phoenix Suns. That list is expected to grow over the coming weeks.