As Charles Lee preps for NBA Finals run with Celtics, Hornets’ coaching staff taking shape

When the Charlotte Hornets reconvene over the summer, allowing everyone to engage again in person, it might be a good idea to have some name tags.

There’s been that much change.

Hornets co-owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin are tapping new front office executives like Shelly Cayette-Weston. New head coach Charles Lee is assembling his staff while also focusing on finishing the task at hand with the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals beginning next week. And don’t forget about the Spectrum Center closing until October for renovations, displacing the team while its home arena is a construction zone.

Got all that? And more new faces are on the horizon.

Here’s a look at the confirmed additions:


Chris Jent

As first reported by The Observer, Chris Jent is the most recent hire. Jent, who spent the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, will be one of Lee’s top assistants, league sources told The Observer, and the Hornets are thrilled he’s coming on board to lend his decade-plus of experience to the bench.

He’s known for his offensive expertise and was the brains behind the Lakers’ attack.

“Chris Jent is an excellent coach,” an NBA scout who also played and coached in the league told The Observer. “He knows his stuff and most importantly he is a great dude. Does his job at a high level. Highly regarded around the league.”

Jent, 54, had brief playing stints with two NBA teams, winning a title with Houston in 1994 when the Rockets took down the New York Knicks, the other squad he suited up for. He credits his time in the league, along with the knowledge he gained playing overseas, and his days around coaching minds like Rudy Tomjanovich in Houston and Mike Brown in Cleveland for shaping his philosophies.

He’s been instrumental in LeBron James’ career as well. He spent time with James to help the superstar refine his shooting stroke, traveling the world for three summers while serving on Brown’s staff in Cleveland. The two were reunited when Jent followed Darvin Ham to the Lakers, and Jent spent two seasons as Ham’s lead assistant.

Another interesting note about Jent: the New Jersey native used to live with the Hurley family and is a year older than Bobby Hurley, the former Duke standout who starred with the Blue Devils from 1990-1993.

Lamar Skeeter

Lee already has his right-hand man in place.

That would be Lamar Skeeter, the first person Lee tabbed to be part of the Hornets new staff. Skeeter will be Lee’s lead assistant, marking the third one the Hornets have had in the four years, taking on the role previously held by Tyrone Corbin under Steve Clifford and Jay Triano for James Borrego.

Skeeter comes to the Carolinas from Utah, where he was one of the Jazz’s longest-tenured assistants. He’d been there since 2014, joining the organization under Quin Snyder, and slowly began his rise up the bench.

In 2022, the Jazz elected to keep Skeeter when Snyder, now the coach of the Atlanta Hawks, resigned. Skeeter spent the previous two years on Will Hardy’s staff until Lee summoned him.

Among his specialties: player development. That’s a key area for the Hornets, who are consistently drafting in the lottery and feature a young roster devoid of many veterans. It’s imperative for the organization to foster the growth of its homegrown talent and help any other incoming additions reach the next level.

Skeeter also likely has a similar mind frame to the Hornets’ hierarchy regarding certain aspects of the game. So, he already possesses that one thing that’s become common with some of the Hornets’ new hires: ties to the Hawks when Lee, vice president of basketball operations Jeff Peterson was there along with Schnall.

Skeeter was an assistant under Mike Budenholzer with Atlanta from 2013-2014, his second stop on his coaching resume after beginning things in the D League, now called the G League, with the Canton Charge.

Josh Longstaff

Josh Longstaff is well-versed in the coaching annals.

Longstaff brings 14 years of experience to the table for the Hornets, becoming entrenched in the business after starting off at the high school level before elevating to the NBA.

Born in Portland, Maine, Longstaff played for Bryant University and his initial job in the pros was as an assistant on Scott Brook’s staff with the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2010-2014.

He moved onto the New York Knicks from 2014-2017, staying on their bench throughout the yearly turbulence of the constant coaching turnover carousel. He survived when the Knicks let two different head voices — Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis — go and hung around to be a part of Jeff Hornacek’s staff.

Following a season as the G League’s Erie Bayhawks lead coach, Mike Budenholzer brought Longstaff to the Milwaukee Bucks, where he held the post until 2020. That’s when he headed to Chicago to be a part of Billy Donovan’s staff, calling Illinois home for four years prior to the Bulls shaking up their roster of coaches last month in the aftermath of a disappointing season during which they didn’t advance to the playoffs, losing to Miami in the play-in tournament.


Dotun Akinwale, assistant GM

Guess where the Hornets’ assistant general manager hails from?

In a shocker, it’s Atlanta.

Akinwale spent the previous nine years with the Hornets’ Southeast Division foes, and has ties to Schnall and Peterson from their days together in the Peach State. His latest title was vice president of player personnel, so he’ll be a central figure in assessing any new talent the Hornets acquire. Akinwale also held the roles of manager of scouting, director of scouting and senior director of player personnel in Atlanta.

Akinwale, who played at Thiel College and earned a business administration degree, started his pro tenure as an executive as a basketball operations intern with the Orlando Magic in 2013, earning a promotion to basketball operations coordinator in 2014-15 season prior to leaving to work for the Hawks.

Ryan Gisriel, VP of basketball operations/strategy

Ryan Gisriel cut his teeth with the Brooklyn Nets for 11 years where he met — who else? — Peterson. This past season, he was executive director of basketball and business operations , enjoying a bump up in responsibilities after being Brooklyn’s director of basketball operations for the previous six seasons.

Besides holding that position, Gisriel had stints as the Nets director of basketball administration and assistant to the GM. Prior to his time with the Nets, Gisriel worked at Shapiro Negotiations Institute, assisting chairman Ron Shapiro.

A graduate of Notre Dame, where he played for the men’s squash team, Gisriel holds a degree in political science.

Patrick Harrel, VP of basketball insights/analysis

Analytics are a big thing in sports nowadays. That’s Patrick Harrel’s level of expertise.

Harrel worked for the NBA for eight years before the Hornets came calling, most recently serving as the league’s senior director of basketball strategy and analytics. He was instrumental in the NBA’s schedule optimization, helping with their coordinated plan to reduce travel stress and shaving down the number of back-to-backs.

Harrel also had a hand in the overall design and implementation of the NBA Bubble during the COVID pandemic that ended the 2019-20 regular season prematurely. Throw in assisting with the creation of the play-in and in-season tournaments, along with once being a part of the league’s competition committee and managing the league’s research into on-court rules changes, and Harrel should help the Hornets in a variety of ways.

A Princeton University cum laude graduate who earned an economics degree, Harrel was named to the Forbes Sports 30 Under 30 this year. He’s going to be a huge resource for Charlotte.