Bernie Bickerstaff has helped assemble and develop a strong core of players in Charlotte, but he won’t be coaching them for much longer.
One day after learning that this season will be Bickerstaff’s last as coach, the Bobcats look to build on their first victory in nine games when they host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.
Part-owner Michael Jordan said Tuesday that Bickerstaff will finish this season as coach but not return next season. However, Jordan added that Bickerstaff, also the team’s general manager, will be invited to stay with the Bobcats and remains an “integral part” of the franchise.
“I want him involved,” Jordan said. “We just haven’t decided if that’s as general manager or president of basketball operations. I see him staying with the organization.”
Bickerstaff was not at the news conference nor was he immediately available for comment, He’s coached the Bobcats for each of their first three seasons in the league, guiding them to a 67-161 overall record. He was credited with the selection of leading scorer Gerald Wallace in the expansion draft, and picking leading rebounder Emeka Okafor and point guard Raymond Felton in the college draft.
This season, Charlotte is 23-41, three wins shy of last season’s total, but are in last place in the Southeast Division.
“When we got the team, Bernie was present at the creation,” majority owner Bob Johnson said. “He molded the team and the culture of the team, which was to play hard and be a credit to yourself and your community. It’s a tribute to Bernie.
“The decision was made by Bernie, Michael and myself, and I hope that he’ll continue in the organization in a capacity that we can agree on.”
Johnson indicated that the job of finding a new coach would fall solely to Jordan, who said that he has not started that search.
The Bobcats ended a season-high eight-game losing streak with Monday’s 119-108 win over Orlando, bouncing back from a home loss to NBA-worst Memphis two days earlier. Derek Anderson had 24 points and 10 assists for Charlotte, which set franchise records with 14 3-pointers and 39 assists.
Okafor, who leads the team with 11.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game, missed his eighth straight game with a strained left calf. Guard Brevin Knight, who has been plagued by injuries all season, left in the second quarter with a strained left groin and did not return.
Knight was fined $25,000 on Tuesday for verbal abuse of a game official and failing to leave the court in a timely manner in the loss to the Grizzlies.
The Kings (28-35) have dropped three straight including Tuesday’s 124-100 loss to Cleveland. Ron Artest, who missed two games last week following his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence, had 19 points in his second game back.
Sacramento is tied with Minnesota for 10th place in the Western Conference, one game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot.
“We have to do a better job defensively, and we have to do a better job rebounding the ball, and we didn’t shoot the ball very well,” coach Eric Musselman said.
The Kings have faced the Bobcats five times, but have lost both visits to Charlotte.