The Charlotte Hornets named Charles Lee as their head coach on Thursday, hoping he'll turn around the long-struggling NBA franchise.

The 39-year-old Lee joins the Hornets after serving as the Boston Celtics top assistant coach. Lee will complete the Celtics' playoff run before joining the Hornets on a full-time basis. Lee spent five seasons under Mike Budenholzer before joining the Celtics last summer.

Lee received a four-year deal from the Hornets, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the terms of the deal were not made public.

Lee replaces Steve Clifford, who announced before the end of the regular season that he was stepping down as Hornets coach after two seasons in his second stint with the club. The Hornets finished 21-61 this season, tied with the Portland Trail Blazers for the league's third-worst record.

"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."

Lee is well respected in NBA circles as a potential rising star in the coaching ranks.

He led the Milwaukee Bucks to the 2020-21 NBA championship as an associate head coach. Throughout his 10 NBA seasons, Lee's teams have accumulated a 510-291 (.637) regular-season record, reached the playoffs nine times, captured seven division titles and earned five Eastern Conference No. 1 seeds.

In four of the last six seasons, Lee has helped coach teams that have finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA.

This season the Celtics finished the regular season with the NBA's top record (64-18), marking the fourth-most wins in a season in franchise history. The Celtics led the NBA in offensive rating and net rating while finishing third in defensive rating.

In Charlotte, Lee will inherit a team that hasn't been to the playoffs in the last eight seasons, the longest drought in the league. Charlotte hasn't won a playoff series in 22 years, a stretch that included more than a decade with NBA great Michael Jordan as the owner.

Jordan sold the Hornets to Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin last year. The co-owners have been busy since, replacing general manager Mitch Kupchak — who also stepped down — with Jeff Peterson.

Lee will work alongside Peterson to oversee a rebuild.

"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," Peterson said in a release. "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."

The Hornets traded Gordon Hayward to Oklahoma City, Terry Rozier to Miami and P.J. Washington to Dallas before the deadline in moves that brought Tre Mann, Vasa Micic, Grant Williams, Seth Curry and Davis Bertans to Charlotte.

The Hornets have some young talent to build around, including last year's No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller, 2022 All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball and center Mark Williams, although the latter two have struggled to stay on the court because of injuries. Miller averaged 17.3 points per game as a rookie while shooting 37% from 3-point range.

Lee got his start in coaching at his alma mater, Bucknell University, where he was an assistant for two seasons (2012-14). During his time as a player, he led the Bison to two Patriot League titles and the only two NCAA Tournament victories in school history, including a win over No. 3 Kansas as a No. 14 seed in 2005. He was inducted into the Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017. He went on to play four professional seasons overseas in Israel, Belgium and Germany.

The Hornets said Lee will be introduced at a news conference after the Celtics playoff run.

Copyright 2024 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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