Over the holiday weekend the Charlotte Bobcats hired Steve Clifford as their new head coach. The good news for Clifford is a three year, six million dollar contract. The bad news is his new employer. Much like managing the Houston Astros, or heading up the football program at Vanderbilt, winning with the Bobcats have proven to be a difficult task.
Since entering the league in 2004-2005 Charlotte has had one winning season, qualified for the postseason once, never won a playoff game, and put together the worst season in the history of the league. Over nine years the Bobcats, who are changing their name back to Hornets, are 250-472. After setting a league mark for futility by going 7-59 two years ago, they improved to 21-61 this last season.
Clifford becomes the sixth Charlotte coach in a decade and the third in three seasons. Paul Silas was dismissed after the 7-59 year, and Mike Dunlap lasted just one year. The winningest coach in Bobcat history is Larry Brown. He went 88-104 and helped the team to their lone playoff appearance. Of the 10 pro coaching jobs, and three college gigs that Brown has taken on, his work in Charlotte ranks somewhere in the bottom two or three of those jobs in terms of success, prestige, and fan support.
Charlotte has ranked among the bottom third of the NBA in attendance every year of their existence. What reason did fans have to watch a seven win team? While improved last year, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, and Byron Mullens fail to attract a lot of buzz. Those were Charlotte's five leading scorers. You want mind boggling, Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor, and Raymond Felton are the three best players statistically in franchise history.
To say that there are tempered expectations for Clifford is an understatement. The Bobcats have never finished better than fourth in the Southeast Division. His adjustment is going to be significant. In Clifford's last three jobs he has worked with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady, and Yao Ming. Any of those players would be by a huge margin the best to ever dawn a Bobcats uniform.
And what's the worst that could happen for Clifford? They are terrible, he gets fired after a year or two, and takes home a whole bunch of cash? He could buy a whole heap of Bobcats tickets with the salary he is making. You can be sure there are plenty of good seats available, and cheap.