Clifford, a veteran of 13 NBA seasons as an assistant coach, most recently with the Los Angeles Lakers, takes over from Mike Dunlap, who was fired in April after finishing his first season with a 21-61 record that was second-worst in the NBA.
"He brings a strong pedigree and a track record of success to our franchise," Rod Higgins, head of basketball operations for the Bobcats, said in a statement.
"He has built a reputation as an innovator, especially defensively, and has experience in multiple systems. We look forward to utilizing his knowledge as we continue to build this team."
Before joining the Lakers last season, Clifford spent five seasons as an assistant coach under Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic, who compiled a 259-135 record and five straight playoff appearances, including a trip to the 2009 NBA Finals.
Prior to that, Clifford worked four seasons with the Houston Rockets as an assistant to Jeff Van Gundy after serving as an advance scout and assistant coach with the New York Knicks.
His first NBA head coaching job presents a big challenge as he takes over a team that has had just one winning season since joining the NBA in 2004.
In the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season the Bobcats went a woeful 7-59, which marked the worst winning percentage ever in NBA history. (Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)