For the first time in a long time, the Charlotte Hornets are expected to be good this year.
Sam Amick of USA Today wrote an article about how owner Michael Jordan turned things around in Charlotte.
The big takeaway is that Jordan has taken a backseat in recent years and placed more trust and responsibility in his coach and general manager.
“Jordan is less controlling, those who know will tell you, and more selective about when and where to make the most of the one-of-a-kind influence that comes with being MJ,” Amick writes. “And because he remains such a powerful part of today’s basketball culture, it’s enough to make you wonder where he can take it from here.”
The team’s recent success comes after Jordan made two key hires — general manager Rich Cho and coach Steve Clifford.
In 2011 Jordan hired Cho as GM. Cho is a former Boeing engineer and law school graduate who quickly rose up the NBA front office ranks in Seattle and Portland before coming to Charlotte. By all accounts Jordan has given Cho significant decision-making power within the organisation, and the results have been strong.
Cho’s first draft pick was Kemba Walker at No. 9 overall in 2011. Walker has since become a better-than-expected starting point guard, and he’s in line for a huge payday when he becomes a restricted free agent. His next first-round pick, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is a work-in-progress who has shown glimpses of potential over the last two years.
Cho has also signed some smart, medium-length free agent deals. He got Al Jefferson on a a three-year, $US41-million deal in the summer of 2013. Jefferson ended up having his best season in years, averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds for a team that exceeded all expectations by winning 43 games.
This summer he signed Lance Stephenson to a three-year, $US25-million contract.
Jordan’s other hire, coach Steve Clifford, drew rave reviews in his first year as coach in 2013-14. Clifford took a team that was 30th in defensive efficiency in 2012-13 and turned them into the 5th-best defensive team in the league last year. He improved the team by 22 wins and got strong years out of guys like Josh McRoberts and Jeff Taylor.
Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote of Clifford’s approach:
“The Bobcats rarely foul, and they all crash the defensive glass. Charlotte tops the league in defensive rebounding rate after finishing 29th last season and 25th the year before, per NBA.com. Clifford has put off the fancier stuff to spend Year 1 on the basics. Turns out, the basics alone are pretty powerful. The Bobcats have constructed a very good defence with so-so talent, a liability at center, and almost zero rim protection. The other stuff — situational game-by-game coaching, the building up of the offensive playbook — can come later.”
As recently as 2012 Jordan was getting slammed for his ownership style. Since then he has turned it around, and he’s done so largely by hiring good people in key positions and giving them the power to succeed.
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