Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford will take a leave of absence “to address his health,” the team announced on Wednesday morning. Lead assistant Stephen Silas will serve as acting head coach.
Clifford missed Monday night’s game against the Orlando Magic due to an undisclosed illness. Silas told reporters prior to the Orlando Magic game that Clifford fell ill around 9 a.m., and the associate head coach was informed that afternoon that he would be assuming head coaching duties for the evening.
Clifford also missed Tuesday’s practice.
The 56-year-old Clifford has served as head coach in Charlotte since 2013, compiling a 169-181 record in the four-plus seasons since and leading the Hornets to the playoffs twice in that span. Their current 9-13 record puts them in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, just three games out of a playoff spot.
Clifford had two stents put into his heart during his first season in Charlotte. He missed several games as a result. The Hornets did not disclose the nature of Clifford’s current ailment. “Out of respect for Clifford’s privacy,” the statement said, “the Hornets will have no further comment at this time.”
Silas, the son of Hall of Famer Paul Silas, has served as an NBA assistant for the better part of two decades, the last eight of which have come in Charlotte. He briefly assumed head coaching duties from his father late in the 2011-12 season, when the then-Bobcats were wrapping up a 7-59 campaign. Silas was promoted to lead assistant when Patrick Ewing accepted the Georgetown job last season.
“(Clifford) is always so prepared for every instance, every game, so today was a lot of study,” Silas told the Charlotte Observer on Monday of the difference between assistant and head coach duties. “Usually I’ll watch (an opponent’s) game and kind of gloss through it if it’s not my game plan. Today I spent a lot more time delving into the stats, delving into our team, and being prepared for late-game situations. It was a long day.”
Hornets assistants split up scouting duties for Charlotte’s 29 opponents. SB Nation’s Paul Flannery recently shadowed Silas for the Hornets’ game against the Boston Celtics to detail that process. Silas’ assignment on Wednesday night: a nationally televised game against the Golden State Warriors.
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