8 ways Charlotte changed since the last time Steve Clifford was Hornets head coach

8 ways Charlotte changed since the last time Steve Clifford was Hornets head coach

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

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Much has changed since Steve Clifford was fired from his role as Charlotte Hornets head coach in the spring of 2018.

What’s happening: The Hornets announced they’re bringing him back as head coach after firing James Borrego in April.

Why it matters: Clifford was the last coach to take them to the playoffs in 2015-16.

  • Charlotte loves a winner, and while the Hornets did have their first winning season since 2015-16 last season, they’re in a playoff drought.

Context: Clifford coached the Hornets from 2013-2018. He’s 12 wins away from becoming their winningest coach in franchise history.

What he’s saying: “I’ve only been here about 24 hours,” Clifford told me during his introductory press conference when I asked what he’d noticed about changes in Charlotte since he last lived here.

  • “The Dunkin’ Donuts still opens at 5:30am down by the Vue [in Uptown],” Clifford said with a smile.

Here are 8 things that changed during Clifford’s time away:

1. Charlotte was smaller

The population grew from 841,611 in 2018 to around 879,709, per the United States Census Bureau.

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2. The Hornets will play at Spectrum Center through 2045

Charlotte City Council voted 9-1 to approve $215 million in renovations for Spectrum Center on June 13. The proposal included a lease extension for the Hornets.

Spectrum Center. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

3. The Hornets have LaMelo Ball

We’ve told you a few times Charlotte’s All-Star turns heads on and off the court, plus he has pretty good taste in milkshakes.

  • “He’s a great talent with a passion for the game,” Clifford said of Ball.

Photo: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

4. Several beloved Charlotte restaurants were still open

Charlotte lost several iconic restaurants, including Price’s Chicken Coop, Mr. K’s and the Stanley.

Price's Chicken Coop closing

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5. The Grand Bohemian Hotel wasn’t open

“The Grand Bohemian is new,” Clifford said which elicited a laugh from the crowd during his press conference.

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6. Charlotte FC didn’t exist

Charlotte was about a year and a half away from getting a Major League Soccer franchise.

Charlotte fc

Hector Cortes organizes supporters at Charlotte FC’s inaugural home match at Bank of America Stadium on March 5, 2022. Photo: Travis Dove/Axios

7. David Tepper didn’t own the Carolina Panthers

Tepper bought the Panthers a few months after Clifford and the Hornets parted ways.

  • Plus Cam Newton was still the quarterback and Ron Rivera was still the head coach.
Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper

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8. American Legion Memorial Stadium was still in disrepair

Mecklenburg County wouldn’t begin a $40.5 million renovation project on the historic stadium in Elizabeth, which was originally dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, until 2019.

Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

Between the lines: Some things have stayed the same, like his friendship with Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak.

  • Kupchak and Clifford went out to dinner a few nights after the Hornets let Clifford go in 2018, and Clifford offered Kupchak his home in Uptown since Kupchak didn’t have a permanent place to stay.
  • “I was afraid that he might ask for his apartment back,” Kupchak said with a laugh about bringing Clifford back.

The bottom line: We live in a world where both Clifford and Newton can return to their respective teams in Charlotte. Perhaps Clifford will have more success his second time around.

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