To be trapped in the middle of a historically rough era is probably the worst scenario that you can enter as a head coach. Add that in with the fact that this given organization has a turnstile mentality when it comes to hiring and firing their head coaches, and you’re basically doomed before you even sign on the dotted line.
Life-time assistant Mike Dunlap was hired to lead the young Bobcats team on June 20th, 2012. The hiring of Mike Dunlap was a controversial and interesting move on the part of the Bobcats organization because of the fact that he was a relative unknown name in a sea of NBA head coaches who bounce around from team to team. The fact that Dunlap worked and learned under two of the brightest basketball minds (George Karl and Steve Lavin) was probably the main reason why GM Rich Cho or owner Michael Jordan believed that he was the right man to lead this young team.
As the story goes, Dunlap was canned after a single season despite a clear and notable improvement over the historically bad Paul Silas era. Despite that improvement, there were an abundance of different issues that the front-office apparently had with the way that Dunlap ran the team.
Now that we’re around eight months removed from his firing from Charlotte, I was able to speak with the man himself about his short stint with the Bobcats and potential future as a coach in either the professional or college world.
QCH: When you look back at your time with the Bobcats organization, what are your overall thoughts and memories?
Dunlap: A real positive experience. Learned a tremendous amount and enjoyed teaching and the overall challenge
QCH: Your overall strategy as a coach is to create the type of environment to help your young players grow. How do you think you did with that task with the likes of Kemba, MKG, and Bismack Biyombo.?
Dunlap: In terms of the time that I was with the team, they got a fair amount of opportunity. WIth that opportunity, all of those guys probably were able to refine their game to a degree especially with Bismack. He has a lot of work to do but you could say that we gave him plenty of playing time. Kemba’s way further down the road than the other two because of age and a full compliment of college experience.
QCH: Bismack Biyombo has been one of the biggest project players since he was drafted. What was it like to coach a player who was as raw and inexperienced as Biyombo?
Dunlap: The good thing about him is that he was a “first in, last out” human being. There was nobody who worked harder than him. The person that also did a great job with him was Stephen Silas. Stephen knew Bismack as I walked in the door so I just think that that relationship continued to grow because of the work that nobody saw that both guys did individually. I think Stephen deserves a lot of credit as does Bismack but overall I think Biyombo will always be that kind of guy who’s going to work incredibly hard.
QCH: You can tell by the way he plays. He’s still extremely raw on offense but you can see his overall work ethic by the way he works on the defensive end because he’s always there as a help defender
Dunlap: Yes. The other thing is that for his age, there was nobody rebounding at the level that he was. So you’re right with his work in pick and rolls. His activity took care of other people’s mistakes quite frankly. It’s just that people have to be patient. The only time in the NBA where you talk about an improvement program with any individual or team is where everybody wants everything yesterday. That’s part of the change with Steve and his staff and I think he’s doing a great job. Bismack is willing to put in the work as well as Kemba and Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG is willing to spend countless hours working on his shot which everybody knows needs work but it wasn’t because he wasn’t willing to work on it.
QCH: The team clearly improved under your watch over the previous season. In your opinion, why didn’t things exactly work out with your time in Charlotte?
Dunlap: The bottom line is that everybody wanted more progress on that and when you’re establishing a culture, your standards become bigger. It was always going to be difficult but I ultimately enjoyed the challenge despite the fact that I was fired after one year.
Before landing in Charlotte, you had a lot of experience coaching in the college world. Would you ever consider taking a gig in the D-League? And what are your overall impressions of the league?
Obviously because of the places I’ve gone, that is something that I have considered or might consider. That challenge is one of many because of my ability to move around or with what your resume says is more factual than anything else. The D-League or the NBA (was an assistant under George Karl in Denver) would be different options if they make sense at the time.