Hornets Rumors

Hornets' Meeting With Messina May Take Place Next Week

As we relayed last weekend, the Hornets have been granted permission to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina for their open head coaching position. With Messina’s Spurs still alive in the postseason – and Gregg Popovich away from the team to be with his family following the death of his wife – the veteran assistant isn’t currently available for that interview. But he may be soon.

As Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes, the Hornets intend to move quickly to meet with Messina once the Spurs’ season is over. With San Antonio trailing Golden State 3-0, that series could end as early as Sunday. And according to Bonnell, the meeting between the Hornets and Messina is currently on track to take place in the middle of next week, unless the Spurs can win a couple games against the Warriors and extend the series.

Why Hornets Should Pursue Kawhi Leonard

  • Jerry Stackhouse, who is an alum of North Carolina, is reportedly in consideration for the Hornets‘ head coach vacancy. If he is hired, that means the owner (Michael Jordan), general manager (Mitch Kupchak), assistant general manager (Buzz Peterson) and head coach (Stackhouse) would be former Tar Heels. Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer writes that Charlotte should look beyond Stackhouse’s collegiate ties in selecting a head coach.
  • With Kawhi Leonards future with the Spurs seemingly unstable, several reports have suggested he will be an offseason trade target for various teams around the league. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer outlines how and why the Hornets should pursue the two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

2018 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker

After a period of virtually unprecedented stability in the NBA’s head coaching ranks, the coaching carousel started spinning again during the 2017/18 league year. Three teams made in-season coaching changes, installing interim replacements, and three more clubs have dismissed their head coaches since the regular season ended.

In the space below, we’ll provide daily updates on the head coaching searches for each club that has yet to give anyone the permanent title. Some of these searches could extend well into the spring, so be sure to check back each day for the latest updates.

Updated 4-20-18 (3:22pm CT)

Charlotte Hornets

  • Out: Steve Clifford (story)
  • To interview: Jerry Stackhouse (story), Ettore Messina (story)
  • Other rumored candidates or targets: David Fizdale (story)
  • The Hornets also made a change in their front office, hiring Mitch Kupchak as their new president of basketball operations and general manager. Kupchak will lead the search for a new head coach, with fellow UNC alum Stackhouse among the first candidates who will interview for the job.

Memphis Grizzlies

Milwaukee Bucks

  • Out: Jason Kidd (in-season change)
  • Interim coach: Joe Prunty
  • As long as the Bucks remain alive in the playoffs, the team won’t actively move forward with its coaching search. If Prunty can get the club through the first round, he’d become a stronger candidate for the permanent job.

New York Knicks

  • Out: Jeff Hornacek (story)
  • Interviewed: Jerry Stackhouse (April 16), Mark Jackson (April 18), Mike Woodson (April 18)
  • To interview: Kenny Smith (April 20), David Fizdale (story), David Blatt (story), Mike Budenholzer (story)
  • Other rumored candidates or targets: Jay Wright (story), Doc Rivers (story), Craig Robinson (story)
  • Not in running: Jeff Van Gundy (story)
  • The Knicks’ search has focused primarily on former head coaches so far, including Jackson, Fizdale, and Blatt. Those three candidates are considered part of the team’s “top tier” along with Stackhouse. Wright and Rivers are probably long shots, given their current employment situations, while Robinson – a former college coach who is already part of the Knicks’ front office – is considered a “dark horse.”

Orlando Magic

  • Out: Frank Vogel (story)
  • To interview: Jerry Stackhouse (story)
  • Other rumored candidates or targets: Nick Nurse (story)
  • The Magic plan to take their time with their search, so there haven’t been a ton of rumors about their targets so far. They’ve been linked to a couple coaches in the Raptors organization, given president Jeff Weltman‘s connection to Toronto.

Phoenix Suns

Clifford: Team Lacked Spirit This Season

  • Steve Clifford, who was fired as the Hornets coach last week, believes the team didn’t play with the same attitude it showed in previous years. Clifford made the comments during a press conference posted on the team’s website. “We’ve always had spirit. We didn’t have that this year,” he said. “Some games (we did), but not nearly the togetherness and spirit we’ve had in other years. They know that.”

Jerry Stackhouse To Meet With Magic, Hornets

Having already lined up an interview with the Knicks, Jerry Stackhouse also plans to meet with the Magic and Hornets about their head coaching vacancies, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Stackhouse, who had been serving as the head coach of the Raptors 905, Toronto’s G League affiliate, has become a popular up-and-coming NBA head coaching candidate. In his last two seasons with the 905, Stackhouse led the team to back-to-back NBAGL Finals, winning the G League championship in 2017.

The Magic had been viewed as a potential landing spot for Stackhouse once Frank Vogel was fired due to Stackhouse’s link to president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman. Before being hired by Orlando last year, Weltman was the general manager in Toronto.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina connection that made Mitch Kupchak a logical choice as Michael Jordan‘s new president and GM in Charlotte may also help Stackhouse. Like Kupchak and Jordan, Stackhouse played his college ball at UNC.

Stackhouse is the first candidate reported to have an interview with the Magic. As for the Hornets, they also reportedly intend to meet with Spurs assistant Ettore Messina, and have been cited as a possible destination for former Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale.

Hornets Granted Permission To Interview Ettore Messina

The Hornets plan to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina for their head coaching vacancy, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. San Antonio has granted permission for Messina to interview with Charlotte.

Messina, who has been with the Spurs for the past four seasons, has experience working with new Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak when they were both with the Lakers. Messina served as a consultant for coach Mike Brown during the 2011/12 season.

Although there has been speculation about other candidates, Messina is the first name to emerge in an interview capacity since the Hornets fired Steve Clifford on Friday. A long-time international coach, Messina has been in the running for several NBA head coaching opportunities in recent years.

Messina was named best coach in the Italian League three times and is a two-time winner of EuroLeague Coach of the Year. He was named to the Italian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Hornets Notes: Walker, G League, Howard, Monk

With changes taking place throughout the organization, Kemba Walker understands he may not play another game for the Hornets, writes Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Walker, who became the leading scorer in franchise history this season, has one year left on his contract at $12MM and  could be moved this summer to bring Charlotte some much-needed cap relief.

“I have no idea,” he said when asked about his future with the Hornets. “That is out of my control. I am just going to focus on getting better as a player. That is really all you can do. I don’t know what they are going to do.”

Walker made his second All-Star appearance this season while averaging 22.1 points and 5.6 assists in 80 games. However, the Hornets are about $17MM over the salary cap for next season and have missed the playoffs the past two years.

There’s more tonight out of Charlotte:

  • The hiring of president and GM Mitch Kupchak and the firing of coach Steve Clifford made headlines this week, but the Hornets are going through a complete overhaul throughout the organization. Most of the training staff and analytics department were dismissed along with Clifford, tweets Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. Clifford’s assistants have been retained for now, but they will eventually be replaced (Twitter link).
  • The house cleaning extended to the G League affiliate, where head coach Noel Gillespie will not have his contract extended, the Hornets announced on their website. He compiled a 35-65 record in two seasons with the Greensboro Swarm.
  • Dwight Howard‘s track record under Clifford was an important factor in the decision to trade for him last summer, but Clifford’s departure doesn’t mean Howard will definitely be moved, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. The biggest factor for Kupchak in a potential Howard deal, Bonnell observes, is what the team would have to accept in return to match Howard’s $23.8MM salary for next season. Howard put up his best numbers in several years, averaging 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
  • Rookie guard Malik Monk has a lot of work to do this offseason after being limited last summer by a sprained ankle, Bonnell adds in the same story. He states that Monk could be in line for a starting spot if the Hornets decide to trade Walker or Nicolas Batum.

David Fizdale A Top Candidate For Hornets' Job?

Dismissed during the 2017/18 season by the Grizzlies, David Fizdale figures to receive plenty of interest this spring from teams on the lookout for a new head coach. One possible landing spot for Fizdale is Charlotte, according to NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence (Twitter link), who hears from sources that the Hornets had started doing their homework on Fizdale even before announcing that Steve Clifford would be dismissed.

Fizdale, who has been considered a potential top target for the Suns, is also viewed as a leading candidate for the Hornets’ job, says Lawrence.

Hornets Fire Steve Clifford

The Hornets have relieved head coach Steve Clifford of his duties, the team announced today (via Twitter). Clifford had been scheduled to meet this morning with new Hornets president and GM Mitch Kupchak, and he and his staff had been expecting this move, per Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Clifford, who was hired by Charlotte in 2013, had been the NBA’s seventh-longest-tenured head coach. He led the franchise to a 196-214 record (.478) during his five years on the sidelines. The Hornets earned playoff berths twice during those five years, but were eliminated in the first round in both 2014 and 2016.

Since the regular season ended on Wednesday, three head coaches of Eastern lottery teams have been dismissed, with Clifford’s firing coming on the heels of the Knicks and Magic parting ways with Jeff Hornacek and Frank Vogel, respectively.

In each instance, a new management team has been installed within the last year, and those front offices will now have the opportunity to hand-pick their own head coaches. In Charlotte, Kupchak was formally hired just days ago, so finding a new coach will be his first major task with the franchise. It’s not yet clear what the list of candidates may look like for the Hornets.

Clifford stepped away from the Hornets for a little over a month earlier this season for health reasons. However, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Clifford has “fully recovered” from the headaches and insomnia that forced him to take a leave of absence.

Despite his rough year in Charlotte, Clifford remains well regarded in coaching circles, and it may not take him much time to find a new job elsewhere. As Mannix notes, there’s a chance that both Clifford and lead assistant Stephen Silas will be in the mix for head coaching openings this spring.

In addition to the Hornets, Knicks, and Magic, the Suns, Bucks, and Grizzlies are also expected to conduct head coaching searches this spring — those three teams currently have interim coaches in place.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steve Clifford Decision Coming By Friday?

  • Hornets head coach Steve Clifford will meet with new president and GM Mitch Kupchak on Friday in Charlotte, tweets Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. According to Mannix, Clifford figures to push for a decision on his status, since he’s highly regarded in coaching circles and could draw interest for other openings around the NBA if Charlotte lets him go.
  • Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders relays what he has heard on head coaching situations around the NBA. Besides examining the five teams without a permanent coach in place, Kyler also takes a look at the Hawks, Hornets, Pistons, and Clippers.