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Charlotte Hornets fire Steve Clifford after 5 years

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Clifford had led the Hornets to consecutive 36-win seasons.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets have fired head coach Steve Clifford, the team announced Friday, ending his five-year run that left him with a 196-214 overall record.

Clifford coached the Hornets to two winning seasons, including a 48-win squad in 2016 that secured the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, Charlotte failed to advance past the first round in both playoff appearances under Clifford, and he finished the last two seasons 36-46.

Charlotte’s future is capped by large contracts that will see their salary cap balloon to nearly $118 million next season if they don’t make any moves. Kemba Walker will also enter the final year of his deal next season, and after Michael Jordan’s strange trade deadline comments, it’s reasonable to assume the Hornets may consider dealing him and moving onto a rebuilding process of some manner.

Clifford is a good coach, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports he’ll be immediately considered for some open coaching jobs. Clifford’s the first to lose 46 games in consecutive years despite finishing with a positive point differential both times. Some of that is bad luck, and some of it speaks to his inability to keep adapting and evolving after the successful 2016 campaign.

Either way, it makes sense the Hornets felt like a new hire was necessary. Charlotte already hired Mitch Kupchak to replace Rich Cho as the team’s president and general manager earlier this season, and the Clifford firing allows Kupchak to reshape the team how he wants.

Clifford is the third coach to be fired after the season, with the New York Knicks letting go Jeff Hornacek and the Orlando Magic dismissing Frank Vogel. The Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks also have open coaching jobs.