Hornets

Who Should Head the Hornets’ Ship?

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With the Charlotte Hornets heading into another yet offseason without making the playoffs, it’s time to start thinking about what’s next.

This is the first in a four-part series where we will step into the shoes of the Hornets GM, and decide what is best for the franchise’s future.

In this first part, we’ll make a case for who should head the ship as the Hornets’ head coach in 2024-2025.

With Steve Clifford stepping into a front office role, the coaching carousel in Charlotte is open once again. After James Borrego was fired following the Hornets’ 2022 Play-In disaster-class, the Hornets came to an agreement with Golden State Warriors lead assistant and former Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. Unfortunately, Atkinson went back on his word, leaving the front office to scramble to find a coach before the draft.

In the most cliche Hornets move, Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak smashed the ‘break in case of emergency’ glass and brought back former dismissed head coach Steve Clifford. Clifford was promised an exciting young core, to whom he could shape and mold to his hearts content.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the story went, with leading scorer Miles Bridges arrested days later for felony domestic violence, leading him to miss the entirety of the 2022-23 season. LaMelo Ball dealt with consistent debilitating ankle injuries, appearing in just 58 of the team’s 164 total games. Further injuries to key players such as Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Cody Martin gave the veteran head coach little to work with.

And now arriving at the present day, he has stepped back from his duties, opening up the Hornets’ head-coach position for the third time in two years.

Earlier this month, the Hornets gained permission to interview four assistant coaches from teams throughout the league; Denver’s David Adelman, Sacramento’s Jordi Fernandez, Boston’s Charles Lee and Phoenix’s Kevin Young.

Interestingly, three of these candidates appear to fit under a common denominator— youth. It seems that newly appointed Hornets GM Jeff Peterson, who just so happens to be the youngest in his position in the league, is looking for a fresh perspective from his new coach.

None fit that bill quite as seamlessly as Boston’s lead assistant Charles Lee.

Lee spent time in Atlanta and Milwaukee before joining the Celtics’ bench in 2022.

Lee is listed in The Athletic’s 40 Under 40, a series intended to shine light upon the best young coaches from across the association. According to those close to him, Lee is viewed as a positive, glass-half-full breed of leader. With this strategy, his players seem to respond well to him, highlighted by his ability to build strong relationships with valued NBA players such as Khris Middleton and Grayson Allen.

According to former colleague Blake Mueller, Lee’s strength is the ability to develop raw talents, something that could greatly improve his prospects in Charlotte, with a roster filled with raw youth.

“His workouts were so creative and at the same time intentional,” Mueller said. “He got their attention, he’d get them engaged in a workout, maybe do something different and unique, with the end goal that we need to improve X, Y and Z. … He leverages the fact that he’s done the work in building and creating this relationship of care. Like, they know he genuinely cares about them so then he can hold them accountable.”

Unlike his predecessors in Borrego and Clifford, Lee has proven championship DNA, winning it all with Milwaukee in 2021.

It isn’t just the Hornets who have shown considerable interest in the Bucknell grad. This past offseason, he was marked as a finalist for the head coaching positions in Phoenix, Toronto, Milwaukee and Detroit.

The likeliness of Lee being appointed is further increased by the fact that Hornets owner Rick Schnall is also a partial owner of the Atlanta Hawks, and he has shown his willingness to bring over former employees from his time in Atlanta to the Charlotte Hornets, highlighted by the move to sign former Atlanta employee Jeff Peterson as his general manager.

About Nic Thomas

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