CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mike Dunlap made history twice in his short time with the Charlotte Bobcats.
The former St. John's assistant and first-time NBA coach led the Bobcats to seven wins in their first 12 games -- the quickest a team matched its victory total from the prior season. Dunlap also said he became the first person to go from college assistant to NBA head coach when he beat out the likes of Jerry Sloan, Brian Shaw and Quin Snyder for the Charlotte job.
"I was longer than a long shot, as my wife would say," Dunlap said. "And that was asking her to marry me. No, I was a long shot."
Dunlap has made Bobcats owner Michael Jordan look good with this unconventional hire.
One of the first things Dunlap did after replacing Paul Silas was go see the players under contract to begin to remove the stench from last season's 7-59 finish -- the worst winning percentage (.106) in NBA history.
"Immediately I got on planes, trains and buses and went and saw guys and had them here," Dunlap said. "The second part was to strategize to make this an environment where they wanted to come back to, whether they were in New York or Wisconsin or whatever. The third thing is paint a picture and how we're going to get there."
Dunlap, who was St. John's interim coach last season while Steve Lavin recovered from prostate cancer surgery, has changed Charlotte's culture through communication, listening and instilling confidence in his young team. The Bobcats play fast and press a lot. They rank in the top five in steals and blocks per game.
"One of the things we had to convince our group of -- and we did -- because of last year is playing hard gets you wins in this league," Dunlap said.
Dunlap, a former Nuggets assistant who worked with Carmelo Anthony, said last year at St. John's helped prepare him for this job, from dealing with the New York media to coaching at Madison Square Garden.
"I just think people perceive me different after the experience," Dunlap said. "So it gave me a candidacy for the job and ultimately gave me the job."