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Charlotte Bobcats hire Steve Clifford as head coach

05/28/2013 6:56 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Steve Clifford has reportedly been hired by the Charlotte Bobcats as the team's new head coach.(AP)
The Charlotte Bobcats reportedly have a new head coach, with the Associated Press reporting that the team has reaching an agreement in principle with Los Angeles Lakers assistant Steve Clifford on a three-year deal.

This will be Clifford's first stint as an NBA head coach, although he has been a head coach at the NCAA Division II level, leading Adelphi University to an 86-36 record and four straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1995-99. He has been on the NBA bench for the last 13 years since, working the 2000-01 season as an advance scout for the Knicks before spending the next dozen years as an assistant in New York, Houston, Orlando, and Los Angeles.

Clifford replaces Mike Dunlap, who was fired after one season that saw the Bobcats finish 21-61 and the rookie head coach often clash with veteran players. According to the AP, Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said in mid-April that he and general manager Rich Cho met with the team and with Dunlap before approaching owner Michael Jordan and asking him to make a coaching change, and laid out what the team was looking for once the move was made.

"We want to hire a great leader, (and) the player development aspect is still vitally important to us because of our youth," Higgins said. "Obviously you want a fantastic X-and-O coach. Someone who can make our players better, and help us win games."

Clifford will be the Bobcats' sixth coach since 2006-07, and was hired one day before he was slated for a second interview with the Bucks for their coaching vacancy. He was selected from a pool of at least a half-dozen other known candidates, including former Suns coach Alvin Gentry - who may end up replacing Clifford as one of Mike D'Antoni's assistants in Los Angeles - and Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson, who is also reportedly a finalist for the Bucks job as well.

"He's a brilliant basketball coach who relates to all kinds of people well and I think he will do an absolutely fantastic job with the talent at hand," said Jeff Van Gundy, who has known Clifford since 1985 worked with him briefly in his final seasons as Knicks head coach. "I'm so happy for one of the good guys in the league to get this opportunity."

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