So by now we all have had a chance to digest the news of the Mike Dunlap firing and let it sink in. I think surprise was everyone's initial reaction to the firing because it didn't seem like he would get fired. He tripled the team's win total -- albeit with a full season -- and didn't have a disastrous first season that would warrant a firing. Yet I find myself supporting this move based on the belief that Dunlap was never the front office's guy. It's been documented the job was offered to Brian Shaw, but he turned it down because he didn't feel it was a good opportunity. Shaw has been an assistant coach since 2004, and although he's thought highly of, if he turned down the job you have to wonder who else did.
I said this on Twitter yesterday but I instantly thought when hearing the news was the Bobcats were never really enamored with Dunlap. He was a young guy they could get on the cheap that would be willing to take over a seven-win that had a roster full of unknowns. With the roster more appealing heading into this offseason than last, I can't blame MJ and Co. for firing a guy they most likely never really believed in long term in hopes of hiring a more qualified coach. What are your thoughts on the firing and how do you see it impacting the franchise in the immediate future?
I really really REALLY do not like this move by the Bobcats. I agree with you that Dunlap was never the front office's guy. They hired him and probably never had the intention of keeping him as their long-term coach. He had a defense that constantly failed throughout the season and at times he would wait way too long to take a timeout. However, what was the point of this season by firing the coach? In firing a coach you do so much damage to the team.
For starters, the next coach will be the Bobcats third coach in three years. That means all the young players the Bobcats have acquired have to re-learn another offense, another playing style, another defense, as well as continuing to figure out this crazy world that is the NBA. The best thing for a young team is consistency and this team hasn't had consistency in a very long time.
I'm also confused as to what in the world the Bobcats were expecting from Dunlap? Did they want 22 wins instead of 21? Did they not tank enough? Did they tank too much? He gave the young players plenty of minutes. Okay, he gave MKG nowhere near enough minutes, which was very annoying, but for the most part he gave young guys a lot of minutes. The biggest question I have to ask, though, is this: Why only one year? Why not more time? They could have easily kept Dunlap around, watched players get better and see what happens. Sure he wasn't their guy, but maybe he turns into a good coach, and if he doesn't, it's not like the progress of the team was hurt. With this roster they couldn't honestly have expected a whole lot. The team isn't going to be going anywhere for a long time and as far as most of us can tell the young players development was not being hurt. Biyombo and Walker definitely improved this season, and while we might not be able to fully credit Dunlap for that, we can definitely credit him for not hurting their development.
I can't argue that consistency is not good for a young team or any team for that matter, but you don't keep a coach you don't believe in just to have consistency. If you were sick and were going to a doctor and not getting better would you continue to go to that doctor to remain consistent or would you go see a different doctor? The question at hand is whether or not Dunlap was the right doctor to cure the Bobcats. The front office didn't think so and I don't think the players did either.
Remember the Ben Gordon-Dunlap spat in which Gordon told Dunlap he needed to "humble himself"? At the time, we tossed this up to a player being out of line and being disrespectful. What we never considered was that maybe it was Dunlap who was out of line and that this sentiment was felt by other players. I could be wrong but I don't remember Gordon being much of a troublemaker in Chicago or Detroit, although I can't say I've followed his career that closely. Still, Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer wrote today that a number of players gave Dunlap negative reviews in their exit interviews. Do you really want to keep a coach around that had player relation problems in year one?
When it comes to the record and the 21 wins the team acquired, it's important to remember the Bobcats started out 7-5. While that was a remarkable feat for a team that only won seven games all of last season, at the same time it's hard to not be disturbed by the team's 14-56 finish to the season. The Bobcats racked up four wins, including three in a row to finish the season in April against teams that had nothing to play for. In the months of December-March, the heart of the season, Charlotte compiled a 10-46 record. I'll let you apply your own thoughts on that.
Another thing to look at is what Dunlap focused on when coming to Charlotte. He wanted a fundamentally sound team that played good hard-nosed defense. The Bobcats were one of the worst defensive team's in the league and their fundamentals were not sound. Some of this is due to talent but I don't feel Dunlap got the most out of this group defensively. His zone defense he implemented failed miserably when it was used, and it didn't seem like he got guys to buy in on the defensive side of the ball. Coaching in the NBA is about managing personalities and getting guys to buy into what you are doing. Can you say he did either above average?
Ben Gordon has always had troubles everywhere he's gone. Maybe not to the level of this season, but he's always fought with teams which is why he can never seem to find a place to hang around. As far as the negative reviews go, I really don't think that was as big a deal as some people are making it. A lot of players don't like their coaches. Larry Brown, considered a great coach, was hated by those old Pacers teams in the 90's but they still played hard and they won games. While the Bobcats did not win games, they were definitely not dogging it out there. Now maybe Gordon was representing the team and Dunlap really did need to "humble himself" but I'm still not sure if that was a fireable offense.
Yes, the defense was absolutely horrible. I can't defend that. It didn't fit the team at all for how young they were and for some reason, he never got it through to their heads that they needed to talk to each other. But, we can both agree the team got better as the season went on, correct?
The record doesn't show it, but the team was a lot better in February and March than they were in December and January. I feel this is largely due to Dunlap learning with the team. As a new coach he was learning how to be an NBA head coach and I really thought he was improving as the season wore on. Rotations, timeouts and play designs all got better.
My main issue with the firing is this. The reason the team hired Dunlap in the first place was because nobody wanted the Bobcats job. As sad and silly as it is, Michael Jordan has a reputation as a very bad and controlling owner, which deters a lot of coaches. He's seen as a control freak who makes all the decisions for the team. This is also wrong because all of management makes the decisions, not just Jordan. Why are the Bobcats so confident that they're going to do much better this time around? Did Stan Van Gundy or Phil Jackson call them up and say "Hey I like your team"? After having so much bad luck last year, another bad season this year, and not much of a reputation change, where is this confidence coming that they can pull in a better coach than Dunlap? While the name shouldn't matter, if the coach is not a known name of any kind to get results, did they not take a step back? They'll just be in the same situation with a young team, a new everything, and an unproven coach.
It's difficult to combat your points about who will want the job, but I don't believe they fired Dunlap without a good idea of who they want to replace him with and the belief they can land this coach. I would like to think they aren't going to go with another first-time coach. If they do, then the firing is more questionable in my eyes. But I'm willing to wait and see what they do before throwing stones at the front office.
To wrap things up from my end, I guess I just don't have a problem with the team hitting the reset button when it's still early in the rebuilding process. If the front office was never truly enamored with Dunlap, then the move was the right decision because having a guy you don't fully support on the sidelines is not the recipe for long-term success. It'll be interesting to see the direction this coaching search goes. It will be a good indicator of what the higher ups felt Dunlap failed on.
I'll leave you with this thought to ponder. Usually when a coach that is respected, liked and admired is fired, a few guys on the team will come out publicly to say something about the firing. We haven't heard from a single player on the firing and to me, that says a lot.
You're right. Not a single player has come out an opposed the firing. Maybe it was the right move. However, I still believe it is not the right move. I feel the need for consistency on a young team far outweighs that of the need for the coach to be loved by his players. Now maybe I'm wrong, and maybe the team is going to go out and hire a coach with lots of experience and a history of great development. But until they prove me wrong, I will believe this was the wrong decision.