On Wednesday the Charlotte Bobcats introduced Steve Clifford as their new head coach after they relieved Mike Dunlap of his duties. Though Dunlap’s firing occurred after just one season in Charlotte, it was hardly surprising after the Bobcats’ tumultuous 2012-2013 NBA season where they finished with a 21-62 record, second worst in the league.
Similar to Dunlap, Clifford has no head coaching experience in the NBA. Dissimilar to Dunlap, who had just two seasons as an assistant in the NBA under his belt before taking the job with Charlotte, Clifford has been an assistant around the league since 2001. Moreover, he has been an assistant to some of the bigger and most respected head coaches in the NBA, most notably Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy.
There’s a pretty compelling argument to be made that Clifford is much more qualified for the job than Dunlap was, but it doesn’t change the fact that he has never held a head coaching position. Because of that, there are definite questions about what he can do with the lowly Bobcats and what he expects from this team.
In his introductory press conference on Wednesday, there was one moment in particular that really stood out and answered some of the questions surrounding Clifford. He was asked how far away he believed the Bobcats were from making the playoffs. Clifford responded with something to the effect of this team can’t afford to think like that and then emphasized that Charlotte’s focus would primarily be on improvement.
Clifford’s response encompassed the mentality that the Bobcats need to have coming into next season. Everyone, including Clifford, knows that this team, as they are currently constructed, has virtually no chance of making it to the postseason. However, they do have a ton of room for improvement. They can improve upon their league-worst defense, their inconsistent offense, their composure, and so on and so forth.
There’s obviously no way to tell if Clifford is the right guy for the job and if his promises of improvement will be fulfilled. However, the important thing for right now is that the Bobcats’ new head coach doesn’t appear idealistic and isn’t expecting the near impossible. He simply wants to do what it takes to get this team out of the cellar of the NBA, which seems like more than enough at this point for Charlotte.