Charlotte Hornets hire Boston Celtics' top assistant Charles Lee as new coach

Charles Lee (R) spent this season as the top assistant to Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla (L). Photo by Allison Dinner/EPA-EFE
Charles Lee (R) spent this season as the top assistant to Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla (L). Photo by Allison Dinner/EPA-EFE

May 9 (UPI) -- Boston Celtics lead assistant Charles Lee agreed to become head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, the NBA franchise announced Thursday.

"The opportunity to be the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets is a dream come true," Lee said in a news release.


Former coach Steve Clifford led the Hornets to a 21-61 record in 2023-24 and stepped down at the end of the season. Clifford led the Hornets to a 27-55 mark in 2022-23. The Hornets went 138-163 in four seasons under former coach James Borrego, who was fired in 2022.

NBA legend Michael Jordan sold his majority ownership stake in the Hornets in August. The team has just three playoff appearances over the last 20 years and hasn't advanced past the first round since 2001-02.


Lee, 39, started his coaching career in 2012 as an assistant at Bucknell. He joined the NBA ranks in 2014, working as an assistant for the Atlanta Hawks. Lee also served as an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks from 2018 to 2023, before joining the Celtics staff last off-season.

Lee was on the Bucks' staff when they won a franchise-record 60 games in 2018-19 and for their 2020-21 NBA Finals winning campaign. The Bucks led the NBA in points per game during both of those runs.

The Celtics won a league-high 64 games while scoring the second-most and allowing the fifth-fewest points per game during the 2023-24 regular season.

The 2023-24 Hornets scored the third-fewest points per game (106.6) and allowed the ninth-most points (116.8) per game this season.

Point guard LaMelo Ball, the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, led the Hornets with 23.9 points per game this season, but missed the majority of the campaign because of an ankle injury.

The Hornets traded guard Terry Rozier, their second-leading scorer, to the Miami Heat in January.

Veteran forward Miles Bridges, who missed the entire 2022-23 campaign because of legal issues and the early part of 2023-24 because of a suspension, turned in the best season of his career. He averaged career-highs in points (21) and rebounds (7.3), while also dishing out 3.3 assists per game over 69 appearances.


Forward Brandon Miller, who joined the Hornets as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, also was a key contributor. He averaged 17.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game during his rookie campaign.

"The Hornets have a talented young core of players and I'm excited about our future and what we can build here," Lee said. "There are few places as passionate about basketball as the Carolinas, and I look forward to coming to Charlotte and getting to work."

Ball is set to receive a $35.5 million salary next season and is under contract through 2028-29. Forward Grant Williams and guard Seth Curry, who joined the Hornets in a February trade, are among the other players who remain under contract with the Hornets through next season.

Bridges is set to hit free agency.

"We are excited to welcome Charles Lee as the head coach of Charlotte Hornets," Hornets executive vice president of basketball operations Jeff Peterson said.

"His high character and his ability to connect with players while also instilling a culture of accountability will serve us well as we construct a competitive team built for long-term success.


"Charles possesses a championship pedigree with a wide range of basketball knowledge and NBA experience, has a tremendous work ethic and is a great communicator. He shares our vision for this organization, and I look forward to partnering with him in building something special here in the Carolinas."

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