Former St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap might have been the surprise choice as head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, but the reasons he has a chance to succeed with the NBA's worst team are the reasons Red Storm coach Steve Lavin might find it tough to replace his right-hand man.
Dunlap helped turn Lavin's senior-laden 2010-11 St. John's team into an NCAA Tournament team, and when Lavin was sidelined for all but four games last season while recovering from prostate cancer surgery, Dunlap averted disaster with a rotation limited to six newcomers by season's end, including five freshmen. Now, he takes over a team led by Kemba Walker and D.J. Augustin that had an all-time NBA worst 7-59 record in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
Explaining how he landed the job in his introductory news conference, Dunlap said, "It was my knowledge base, my relationships with players and the ability to open this up a little bit and develop youth so people see we play a style of attack basketball that's very aggressive."
Dunlap's only previous NBA experience came as George Karl's assistant in Denver for two seasons, but he was the top assistant in college for Lavin, Arizona's Lute Olson and Oregon's Ernie Kent. Dunlap has 17 years head-coaching experience, including nine at Metropolitan State in Denver. Bobcats GM Rich Cho said Dunlap's second interview jumped out so much the team called his agent to offer the job while he was flying back to New York. "This guy is a big-time, crazy worker," Cho said of Dunlap.
"It's about taking a chance to go someplace and do something significant that's exciting," Dunlap said. "Establishing a culture is what has been asked and what I thrive on."