Who the hell is Mike Dunlap? Well, he’s the new coach of your Charlotte Bobcats, ladies and gentlemen!
No, for real. Who the hell is Mike Dunlap? The Bobcats have hired one of the lesser known candidates that they interviewed. He wasn’t on the “narrowed down to” list that Rick Bonnell reported last week and that I, apparently needlessly, broke down in a post. No one got excited about him when it was mentioned he was a candidate. I was more excited about the possibilities of Dave Joerger or Nate Tibbets and I know they garnered a bit more attention than Mike Dunlap. Dunlap was an assistant on a college team, not an NBA team, the St. John’s Red Storm. He did step in for Steve Lavin while he dealt with prostate cancer last season, so he was an associate or interim head coach, more than assistant, that’s what I’m selling anyway.
Not Jerry Sloan, who withdrew his name over the weekend. Not Brian Shaw, who Tom Sorrenson was pushing in the Observer (and our own Blogcat has learned to love to hate). Not Quin Snyder, who we were all told was on the short list. Not Patrick Ewing, who “friend” Michael Jordan supposedly let down easy a couple weeks ago. Nate McMillan didn’t impress in his interview, who everyone had as an early leader before the interviews even began.
What a weird process. ”Paul, it’s not your fault, you won’t be held responsible for the worst season in NBA history.” That was around January 14th. Well, Paul Silas was fired, but retained in some other capacity with the team. Weird. His son, Stephen was considered for the head coaching position, along with about 9 or 10 other guys. Patrick Ewing, Dave Joerger, Jerry Solan, Nate Tibbets, Michael Malone, Nate McMillan, Brian Shaw and I, yes, I Andrew Barraclough were all interviewed for the position. Weird, seems like they’d have a shorter list, or some guys might be eliminated in the application process. I don’t know how most head coaching searches go but 10 or 11 guys seems a bit excessive. Apparently, only 4 actually met with the owner, Michael Jordan. Sloan’s initial interview was with Jordan and the rest of the front office team. Shaw and Snyder were brought in last week for a second interview to talk with the big man and Dunlap must have met with Jordan at some point. Dunlap was selected from a wide range of guys, and it comes completely from left field. We’re talking far left-field, like Bartman area, left-field.
What I have gleaned from my early attempts to find out who he is and where he came from, Mike Dunlap is the assistant’s assistant. 54 year olds don’t appear out of nowhere to coach an NBA team. Lots of respect and lots of appreciation for him as a basketball guy, as an x’s and o’s coach are coming in. While everyone sees it as fans do, a complete blindside of a hire, he’s still well respected. This is how far outside the realm of “known” individuals he is: Mike Dunlap doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. The St. John’s website gives a glowing representation of this guy, and that’s about the best information out there.
His experience starts with Loyola-Marymount, where he played his college ball after junior college. He wasn’t there for the Hank Gathers/Bo Kimble years, but just before 1980-1985. One year at Iowa, as graduate assistant and then 3 years at USC under George Raveling. Then he went on a head coaching run of about 17 years, but at small schools and out of the country. First 5 years at California Lutheran University and you know those Lutherans in Cali take their roundball seriously. Then 3 years with the Adelade 36ers in Australia, which I think could be freakin awesome. He came back stateside to coach again at the Division II level, at the Metropolitan State University of Denver and he was there from 1997-2006. They won two national championships, one in 2000 and one in 2002, which is impressive, I don’t care if it’s Div III, championships are hard to come by, let alone two. He was hired to be on George Karl’s staff in Denver, with the Nuggets. Didn’t have to move, but his pay and the experience got much, much bigger. Could you imagine going from Division II to the NBA? Anyway, for whatever reason he left to work as an associate head coach under Lute Olsen at Arizona. Lute was in poor health and his wife had died around that same time, if I’m not mistaken, so the “associate” part took on a whole different meaning. He took on the same position at Oregon not long after and then finally, moved on to his most recent position at St. John’s.
The guys he’s been an assistant under are no slouches and the head coaching positions he’s taken have led to success for his teams. The St. John’s profile mentions Dunlap being published for some pretty technical articles he wrote on things like motion offense or shooting.
Honestly, this seems like a good hire. While it’s strange, bizarre, weird, random, whatever you want to call it, if you have faith in Rod Higgins, Rich Cho and the rest of the upper management of this team, you have to think this is the best hire for the team right now. The story-line you’ll get from those in the media are things like “Jordan doesn’t want to pay a coach,” or “The Bobcats weren’t high on the big names’ lists.” Things like that simply aren’t true. If a guy was worth it, if the wins would come because of a head coach, I’m almost positive Michael Jordan would shell out the cash for an elite head coach. If Phil Jackson wanted to come here, he’d get paid, but he wouldn’t want to come here because there isn’t a guy that people would call “The best in the NBA,” on the Bobcats right now, he doesn’t want to go to the Knicks for the same reason. Jerry Sloan pulled his name out for reasons known only to him. At 71 years old would you want to be fighting to get to 20 wins with a starting 5 that would feature 3 players under the age of 20?
Fresh blood and a teaching coach is all I really wanted. It sounds like this is what we’ve got. Chris Broussard is reporting that Tim Grgurich may be joining the staff as well. It’s interesting the connection to George Karl, who I really like and have respected since his time at Seattle. Also, if you think about Mike Dunlap’s timeline, large jumps have paid off for him. He’s from Alaska but he went to college in Los Angeles. He was an assistant around L.A. and then went to Australia. From Australia to Denver where he became a champion, albeit at the division II level, and then the jump right over Division I to an NBA bench. From an assistant at a mid-level Big East school, to NBA head coach. We’ll see how this big jump works out for all parties involved.