ASHEVILLE — Wasnt hard to recognize the guy upstairs at UNC Ashevilles arena the first two days of Charlotte Bobcats training camp.
Round body, shaggy dark hair, mustache: Stan Van Gundy, former Orlando Magic coach and Steve Clifford mentor.
Hes been here watching out for Clifford in his first preseason as an NBA head coach, offering input without getting in the way.
"Outside of my family I dont think theres anyone more concerned about us doing well than Jeff (Van Gundy) and Stan. They give me advice about everything from leadership to the (head-coaching) position to basketball Xs and Os," Clifford said Wednesday.
Clifford worked for Jeff as a Houston Rockets assistant 2003 through 2007, then worked for Stan in Orlando another four seasons. After one season as the top assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers, Clifford was hired in June as the Bobcats sixth head coach.
Stan Van Gundy came to Asheville to advise from up high.
"Just to observe and help me help the staff -- watch and give his impressions of what we can do different or better," Clifford described. "If you have someone you have a great trust in, who you know can help, its of huge benefit. ...Maybe its a wrinkle in how you do something or the way to practice."
Cliffords only previous head-coaching experience was four seasons at Division II Adelphi. Clifford is still working through what he should address, versus what he can delegate to the four assistants and associate head coach Patrick Ewing.
"I have a good staff, so I focus more on things only the head coach can do," Clifford said. "Yes, its a big, big difference."
Note: While theres clearly a sense of optimism about the upgraded roster, you wont find Bobcats making predictions about the season. Gerald Henderson described that this way: "Thats not something we think about; were focused on the next month, having a successful camp."
Or as Clifford said Monday, "I have no idea (how theyll finish). Thinking that way is an entirely wrong mentality."
Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129. Twitter: @rick_bonnell