Storyline: Steve Clifford Health

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Fred Hoiberg: To see what other coaches have gone through, this is a very stressful position. There’s a lot of sleepless nights when you lose a game and you think there’s something you could have done. It just eats away at you. And the stress is a hard thing to deal with. You have to rely on your family to get you through the tough times and also your staff and your friends that are in the same position around the league, which you develop a good support system with that. But, yeah, you think a lot about that. One of the assistant coaches for Brooklyn this offseason had the same heart surgery that I had. A guy named Josh Oppenheimer. And then you develop relationships with those guys. It’s our own little special club, the zipper club I guess is what you call it. But you reach out to these guys. Steve Clifford, I’ve gotten to know pretty well over the last couple of years. First and foremost, you just hope everything’s going to be OK, and it’s great to see [him] back on the sidelines. And it sounds like Tyronn’s going to be out a short amount of time and hopefully be back.

What happened over the next 5 1/2 weeks had little do with with basketball, everything to do with self-preservation. It registered on Clifford, who turned 56 in September, that this could potentially end his season, if not his career. Clifford’s condition doesn’t necessarily fit the description of migraines, which his brother has suffered from for years. Jung told Clifford what he was feeling was a pattern among highly stressed Charlotte executives. “The biggest thing for me is a lack of sleep. Stress-related,” Clifford said. “(Jung’s) biggest concern with me is (most executives) don’t travel as much as I do. That’s why they have been a little more careful — and rightfully so — about me coming back.”

Hornets coach Steve Clifford will rejoin the team for practice on Tuesday. Clifford, who left the team Dec. 6 because of health reasons, will coach the Hornets Wednesday against Washington. He spoke with his team on Friday. “It’s great news,” Batum said. “I called him right away and talked to him. It’s good to know he’s coming back, and it’s good to know he’s getting better. He’s been out a few weeks, and it could be scary (to be sick), but the most important thing right now is his health.”
4 months ago via ESPN

Two years ago, Charlotte coach Steve Clifford turned to the team’s medical staff, searching for something to dull periodic headaches. They gave him medication to manage the pain, and Clifford marched the franchise into the playoffs. Time passed, but the headaches only worsened. Doctors ran him through a battery of exams during the 2017 All-Star break, and Clifford kept going. Eventually this season, Clifford was struggling to sleep at all. The pain had become prodigious. All the angst over the winning and losing, all the hours watching video, all those 3:00 a.m. hotel arrivals off back-to-back games, and finally, Clifford sat inside his practice facility office on an early December game-day morning and the truth washed over him: I can’t live this way anymore.
4 months ago via ESPN

Four years ago, Steve Clifford had two stents inserted into his heart on a Friday and coached on the road Monday against the Boston Celtics. Charlotte’s team physician, Joseph Garcia, stood over him in the hospital room and suggested that he sit out that charter flight on Sunday to New England. “But there was no way I wasn’t going on that trip,” Clifford told ESPN by phone on Friday morning. “But this issue now, the headaches, was not even close to the heart. That week before I stepped away, and that morning in the office, it scared me. It was much more significant than the heart was, and I’ve never had anything physically that concerned me as much as this did. “The doctors, all of us, agreed that there was no way I was in a place where I could coach. Whatever I needed to do, I needed to feel better.”
4 months ago via ESPN

How Steve Clifford had always lived and grinded on the job — a bachelor with no kids living out of a spartan condo near the office — offered him an around-the-clock dedication to his craft. In many ways, though, Clifford had tilted the imbalances too far. He had to change — or risk losing everything. “For the most part, the diagnosis was sleep deprivation,” Clifford told ESPN. “The headaches and the cause of the headaches were a lack of regular sleep and the stress that goes along with coaching. There were two ways to treat it: Stronger medication or stepping away from coaching, stopping the travel, getting regular sleep, diet and exercise. “But getting on medication would only be a Band-Aid. It could get me through another day, a week, a month, but here was my decision: Long-term health versus coaching right now. The doctor told me, ‘You may get through this season, but you’re going to have migraines soon, and that’s going to become a much bigger problem for you.'”
4 months ago via ESPN

Clifford was on the phone Friday morning, about to drive downtown into the office and see his players and coaches, the trainers and PR staff. He’ll run a practice on Tuesday, coach against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, and he’ll try to get past all these injuries and get Charlotte to the Eastern Conference playoffs for the third time in five seasons on the job. The Hornets have a better schedule coming and their coach back to take them through it. “As much as anything, I missed the daily interaction with everyone there,” Clifford said. “I’ve coached most of these guys for a long time. The base is already in place, and we will just need to get the details into the right place for the next game. I don’t need to reinvent anything or give a big motivational speech. I just want to get back to work, get back to our team. “I’m better now, and I’m going to be better in the long run. And I’ve missed it.”
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