4 Reasons why the Charles Lee hire makes sense

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

On May 9, the Hornets named Celtics’ assistant Charles Lee as their new head coach on a four-year deal. The signing marks the franchise’s ninth head coaching hire in the past 20 seasons, including its third in the last six. 

Lee has served as an NBA assistant for the past 10 seasons in Atlanta, Milwaukee, and most-recently, Boston. A new coaching hire, on top of a restructured executive leadership group, marks the beginning of a new era in Charlotte. 

1. Team Success

Since his coaching stint began with the Hawks in the 2014-15 season, Lee’s teams have amassed a record of 510-291, winning nearly 64% of their games. He has assisted teams to a playoff appearance in nine of 10 seasons, including finishing with the league’s best record in four of the last six seasons, and an NBA Championship with Milwuakee in 2021. 

In the same timeframe, the Hornets have compiled a 339-481 record. The organization holds the league’s longest active playoff drought, with its last appearance being a first-round loss in the 2016-17 season. 

Lee's regular-season success and playoff experience are anticipated to foster a refined team culture moving forward.

2. Organizational Ties

Lee enters the position with a connection to key figures within Charlotte’s new executive staff. He worked with the Hornets’ new President of Basketball Operations, Jeff Peterson, who served as Assistant General Manager for three years in Atlanta. Additionally, Rick Schnall, Charlotte’s new Co-Chairman and Governor who was a part of the group that purchased the team from Michael Jordan in August 2023, was a minority owner of the Hawks during Lee’s tenure. 

In most cases, an organization filling three significant roles with new faces at once would lead to a learning curve of understanding each other’s operational methods and style. With the three having not only previously worked, but experienced success together, the Hornets find themselves ahead of that curve with a young front-office nucleus. 

3. Lack of Age Discrepancy

NBA history suggests that an older and more experienced head coach can optimize the development of a young roster. However, a dichotomy in coach and roster age can also result in disparities in energy and attitude. Steve Clifford, who stepped down as head coach to move into an advisory role at the conclusion of the past season, cited the “grind” of an NBA schedule and the energy level required as factors in his decision.  

The Hornets began the 2023-24 season as the third-youngest roster in the league with an average age of just 24.28 years old. They also began the season with Clifford as the fourth-oldest head coach. Though the trade deadline saw a few veteran additions, the team still currently has an average age of 24.5 years old. Lee, however, is currently the league’s third-youngest head coach at just 39 years old. His youthful energy could rejuvenate the team and convert what they lack in experience into energetic play throughout the taxing demand of the NBA season.

4. The Safe Option

The Hornets created league-wide headlines when they announced they would interview JJ Redick, who has no prior coaching experience, for their head coaching vacancy. Redick continues to garner interest for openings, such as with the Los Angeles Lakers, despite his lack of experience. After all, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had no experience before his hiring in 2014, but four championships later, is now considered one of the great coaches in league history.

Charlotte could have brought in a big-name former player who lacks coaching experience but is undoubtedly knowledgeable of the game for the job. Instead, they made the safer and more routine decision, hiring the highly touted assistant coach who has not yet served as a head coach but has years of experience on successful coaching staffs. 

With an experienced but youthfully energetic new head coach,  a significant executive staff overhaul, and a roster of promising young pieces, Hornets fans can look toward the future with a newfound sense of hope.