Steve Clifford: Not To Be Underestimated


Steve Clifford is not a name many folks know. Like much of the Hornets’ roster, he’s not a household NBA name by any means. If you still don’t know who he is, Clifford is the Charlotte Hornets’ head coach.

Clifford is demanding, ruthless, and to be honest, a bit scary. If Clifford asked me to complete a basketball assignment, I’d be all over it, right away. Maybe that’s the key of the Hornets’ great defense, and a reason their offense doesn’t compare to the defensive side of the ball.

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  • For instance, it’s pretty easy to blow an offensive assignment, but not as hard to blow a defensive one. If Clifford asks a player to score 20 points, typically, they won’t. If he asks them to limit their defensive assignment to 10 shots, that’s more doable. The lack of offense could also be because defensive assignments may be stressed more by Clifford than the offensive.

    Perception of coaches by the public eye can often be skewed. They’re rarely praised when things go right, and often criticized when things go wrong. A lot of Clifford’s (and other coaches alike) work happens behind the scenes. From pushing players in practice, to evaluating hours of film and stats, a coaches work is so much more than just the 48 minutes on the court. Keep in mind their locker room presence often can be the glue that holds a team together.

    The dedication put in by Clifford (and the rest of the staff) isn’t quantifiable by a stat. There’s not really any numbers that can show how much a coach did. A win-loss record can show a team’s overall status, but that doesn’t reflect a coaches dedication, long hours, and hard work. Clifford’s amount to the team is much more than just a win-loss record.

    Clifford has some incredibly solid coaching experience. While experience doesn’t always mean that coaches are good, Clifford is a proven winner, and has clearly learned from his experience.

    Starting in North Country Union High School Clifford led this team to many wins and many tournaments. From there Clifford moved on to the University of Maine proving himself and establishing his name in correlation with wins yet again.

    Finally, Clifford would make it to the NBA as an assistant for several teams. Clifford was an assistant for the Knicks and Rockets before he took over in Charlotte. His first head coaching job in the NBA was with the Bobcats last season, where he led them to the playoffs for only the second time since the Bobcats came into existence. Now, he’s still leading the newly named team towards winning games, and hopefully even his first playoff win as a head coach.

    Now, Clifford has been getting a lot of rap lately for the losing that has happened at different points this season. This is something I can not get my head around. I respect Clifford as a coach. I know he’s working harder than I could ever convey or see, but he’s doing a lot for the team and not getting credit for it.

    If the Hornets make the playoffs this year, it will be the first ever time the basketball team in Charlotte has made the playoffs in consecutive years since their reinstatement in 2004. Before that, we have to trace back to 2001 to find the last consecutive playoff appearance, and that is technically an entirely different franchise. If that doesn’t show how much Clifford has turned things around in the right way, I don’t know what else will.

    While some claim Clifford’s downfall has been the inability to train Stephenson well, let’s look at the players that he’s grown. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is up to 10.7 points per game after having just 7.2 last year. Cody Zeller is up 7.9 compared to his 6.0 last year. Kemba Walker’s points are up a whole number, and Bismack Biyombo went up as well. Both of these players have been out with injury, though. Though some players don’t seem to be developing, it could be more of a failure to learn, rather than Clifford failing to teach.

    At the end of the day, a win-loss record simply can not help to show just how much Clifford does as a coach. His countless hours of work are hardly quantifiable from that record. When the last buzzer sounds, no matter how much work Clifford puts in, the games are in the hands of the players. It is their job to put Clifford’s game plan’s into action.

    Next: Charlotte Hornets Slowly Moving Up

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