In another move aimed at getting the Charlotte Hornets on track, majority owner Michael Jordan fired coach Steve Clifford on Friday after the team went 36-46 and failed to reach the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons.
Clifford had a year left on his contract. The move to dismiss him came after his face-to-face meeting Friday with new general manager Mitch Kupchak.
”I want to thank Coach Clifford for his contributions to the Hornets,” Kupchak said in a statement. ”I know he has worked incredibly hard on behalf of the organization and we wish him the best moving forward. The search for a new coach will begin immediately.”
Jordan hired Kupchak on Sunday to replace Rich Cho, who was fired earlier in the season after the Hornets failed to climb out of an early slump.
The Hornets were 196-214 in five seasons under Clifford. They reached the playoffs twice, but failed to make it out of the first round in 2014 and 2016.
Clifford on Wednesday called this a ”disappointing” season because he felt this was his most talented Hornets team. It was a rough season for him in other ways – he missed 21 games because of headaches stemming from sleep deprivation.
He acknowledged that the Hornets ”didn’t make good progress” this year, particularly on defense, his forte.
Clifford is the third NBA coach to be dismissed since the end of the regular season Arden Key Color Rush Jersey , following Jeff Hornacek of New York and Frank Vogel of Orlando.
Clifford was an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers for one season while Kupchak was the general manager there. Kupchak said this week he knew then that Clifford had head coaching potential. But it took Kupchak less than week on the job to fire Clifford.
”The NBA isn’t about winning, the NBA is about winning in the playoffs,” Clifford said Wednesday when asked about his job security. ”So if you want to look back at our five years, and I told our staff this last night, I do feel very good about where we are and how we are perceived versus where it was five years ago.
”We made great gains. To be relevant and respected in this league is a long way from where we started. And I do know people respect how we play, our purpose of play and everything like that.”
But Clifford went on to say that isn’t enough.
”You’re fooling yourself to say that it’s better,” he said. ”That’s not what it is. So you know I don’t have my head in the sand of what this head coaching is all about. Also you can’t walk around like that Sam Darnold Jersey Jets , I don’t care how many years you have left on your contract, and you can get fired in one week in this league.”
Aaron Nola was the man Gabe Kapler wanted on the mound with Manny Machado at the plate and the tying run on third base.
It was the right move.
Nola stuck out nine in seven splendid innings, Nick Williams hit a two-run homer and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 Wednesday to sweep a two-game interleague series.
Nola (11-2) gave up one run and seven hits to win his fifth straight decision.
He escaped a jam on his 103rd pitch when second baseman Cesar Hernandez made an outstanding, over-the-shoulder running catch on Machado’s shallow fly to right with two outs and runners on first and third.
”That’s awesome,” Nola said of the play.
Kapler, who was heavily criticized for pulling Nola after 68 pitches in the season opener at Atlanta, visited the mound before letting his ace face Machado with a 2-1 lead.
Nola said he would’ve lobbied to stay in but didn’t have to say anything other than he felt fine.
”I want to go deep in the game,” he said. ”I want to get through that inning.”
After five consecutive losing seasons, the Phillies are on the rise under Kapler. They pulled within 1 1/2 games of NL East-leading Atlanta and moved 10 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 2011 season with a franchise-record 102 wins.
”It’s a nice milestone, one we can celebrate,” Kapler said.
Making his second career start and third appearance, Orioles right-hander Yefry Ramirez (0-2) retired 13 of his first 14 batters before running into trouble in the fifth. Ramirez gave up two runs – one earned – and one hit in five innings.
”I was really proud of Yefry. You couldn’t ask for much better,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Victor Arano tossed two scoreless innings for his first career save.
Ramirez didn’t allow a hit until Scott Kingery ripped a one-out double to left in the fifth. Williams, who walked, advanced to third on the hit.
Jorge Alfaro followed with a grounder down the first-base line. Chris Davis moved a few steps to his left, took his eyes off the ball to look at Williams running halfway down the line, and the ball knuckled under his glove. Both runners scored on the error.
Adam Jones lined an RBI double to left-center in the third, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
For the second straight day, fans clapped each time Machado was introduced. They also chanted ”We want Manny!”
The three-time All-Star is set to become a free agent after the season and the Phillies are among the teams interested in acquiring him before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31 or signing him in the offseason.
Machado told reporters before the game he wants to play shortstop wherever he goes and he wouldn’t be surprised if Philadelphia aggressively pursued him. Phillies team president Andy MacPhail held the same position in Baltimore when the Orioles selected Machado No. 3 overall in the 2010 amateur draft.
Orioles: OF Joey Rickard was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to replace OF Colby Rasmus Daniel Kilgore Color Rush Jersey , who was placed on the restricted list before Tuesday night’s game.
Phillies: RHP Jerad Eickhoff was scheduled to throw another live batting practice at Single-A Clearwater. Eickhoff has nerve issue in fingers and hasn’t pitched this season.
Orioles: RHP Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.48 ERA) starts the opener of a four-game series at Minnesota on Thursday night. Cashner had a 3.21 ERA in five starts in June but didn’t earn a win.
Phillies: Nick Pivetta (5-7, 4.66 ERA) takes the mound at Pittsburgh for the start of a three-game series on Friday. Pivetta earned the win in a scoreless inning of relief in Philadelphia’s 13-inning victory over Washington last Sunday.