Hornets name Celtics assistant Charles Lee as next coach

The Charlotte Hornets have found their new coach, hiring Boston Celtics assistant Charles Lee, the team announced Thursday.

Lee has been an NBA assistant coach for the past 10 years and joined the Celtics’ coaching staff for this season.

Before that, he was an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks (2018-23) and Atlanta Hawks (2014-18), serving with former Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer in both Milwaukee and Atlanta.

He has no previous experience leading his own team and, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Lee’s deal is for four years.

The Hornets said Lee will be introduced at a news conference after the Celtics playoff run.

The Charlotte Hornets executive vice president of basketball operations, Jeff Peterson, released a statement saying, “We are excited to welcome Charles Lee as the head coach of Charlotte Hornets.”

As we build a competitive team geared for long-term success, his high character and his ability to connect with players while simultaneously fostering an accountability culture will serve us well.

“Charles has an incredible work ethic, a fantastic work ethic, a championship history, a wealth of basketball knowledge, and NBA experience. He is also an excellent communicator.

He is in line with our goals for this organization, and I am excited to work with him to create something truly unique in the Carolinas.

Teams that Lee was a member of have ended with the best record in the NBA four times in the past six seasons.

In a statement, Lee said, “The chance to lead the Charlotte Hornets as head coach is a dream come true.” “The Hornets have a young, talented core of players, and I’m excited about what we can do together and our future.”

The Carolinas are one of the states with the biggest basketball fan bases, so I’m excited to visit Charlotte and start to work.

Hornets’ future: Since Steve Clifford declared in early April that 2023–24 would be his last season as coach, Charlotte has been searching for a new leader.

After leading the Hornets to a team record 577 games and 244 victories, he departed as the most successful coach in the history of the organization. He anticipates staying on as an advisor for the squad while it attempts to overcome its current struggles.

Lee will take over a Charlotte team that hasn’t prevailed in a postseason series in 22 years, during which time NBA legend Michael Jordan was the owner for more than ten of those years.

Jordan gave Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall the Hornets the previous season. Since then, the co-owners have been rather busy, appointing Peterson to succeed the recently retired Mitch Kupchak as general manager.

The Hornets haven’t finished above.500 since the 2015–16 season, which coincided with Charlotte’s final postseason participation. They were 21–61 in 2023–24 and 27–55 the season before that.

LaMelo Ball, the standout guard for the Hornets, missed the majority of the previous season due to ankle problems, playing just 22 games.

After just 58 games played in the previous two seasons, he stated at the close of the season that he is thinking about wearing ankle braces to avoid being hurt again.

The Hornets think they can turn things around if they can keep Ball on the court and couple him with Brandon Miller, the three-time NBA Rookie of the Month.

Nick Richards, the center for the Hornets, remarked, “He makes our team go.” “Having him on the court is incredibly essential to us.”

The Hornets suffered injuries to guard Cody Martin and starting center Mark Williams in addition to Ball, both of whom lost a lot of time. Earlier in the season,

Charlotte dealt Tre Mann, Vasa Micic, Grant Williams, Seth Curry, and Davis Bertans to Oklahoma City, Terry Rozier to Miami, and P.J. Washington to Dallas in exchange for Gordon Hayward.

In 2023–24, Charlotte struggled to stay afloat, going on two different losing streaks of ten games or more. The team also never managed to win more than four games in a row.

Compared to 2022–23, they let up 4.5 more points per 100 possessions, the second-highest increase in the NBA.

This season, Ball, Miller, and Williams combined for 153 minutes (split among 12 games).

Miller (21.8 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 58% over the final two weeks of the season) should be happy that Charlotte selected him with the second choice of the previous season.

They have two gifted 6-foot-7 perimeter players under 23 if Ball can stay healthy and become a little more focused.

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