CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mike Dunlap’s reputation as a ‘crazy worker’ was among the things that impressed the Charlotte Bobcats.
The team formally introduced Dunlap as the fifth coach in the franchise’s eight-year history on Wednesday, and immediately began talking about changing the franchise’s culture of losing.
The Bobcats were 7-59 last season for the worst winning percentage in NBA history.
“After going through the process, we really felt strongly that this is the right guy to take us into the future,” president of basketball
operations Rod Higgins said.
Dunlap, 54, spent last season as an assistant at St. John’s and ran the program while coach Steve Lavin battled prostate cancer.
“Really, the three primary things we were looking for were player development, a teacher, and somebody to set the culture for this organization,” general manager Rich Cho said. “If you look around the league, the best organizations have a certain culture, and the first thing about the culture is to rely on hard work.
“The thing that really jumped out is that he’s a big-time worker, the first guy in and the last guy out. He’s just a crazy worker. That kind of stuff is infectious among the staff and the players, so that will set the culture for us. Mike’s going to be very demanding. I know one thing, they’re going to be in shape.”
Bobcats owner Michael Jordan did not attend the news conference.
Dunlap has just two seasons of NBA experience in his 32-year coaching career. He was an assistant with the Denver Nuggets from 2006-08. Prior to that, he served as head coach at Metropolitan State in Denver, winning two NCAA Division II championships. He has also been a head coach at California Lutheran and for Adelaide of the Australian NBL. He has served as an assistant at Arizona, Oregon, Loyola Marymount, Iowa, Southern California, and the last two seasons at St. John’s.
“Basically the three things I tried to nail down as a theme was one, my knowledge base, two my relationships with players over a long period of time, 32 years, and finally the ability to take a branding that obviously the organization wants,” Dunlap said. “We’ll open this up a little bit with the youth, develop the youth, and bring it along so that people can actually see that we play a style of basketball that’s very aggressive. It’s attacking basketball both offensively and defensively. And that’s a message that obviously resonated with them.”
Dunlap will inherit a core of young players that include point guards D.J. Augustin and Kemba Walker, shooting guard Gerald Henderson, and power forward Bismack Biyombo. The Bobcats also have the No. 2 overall pick in the June 28 NBA Draft, and could clear as much as $21 million in salary cap space to use in free agency.
“I think it’s a team that can push the ball down the floor,” Dunlap said. “What we have at point guard in Augustin and Walker, obviously that’s a great start. I like how they play. I like what they are as far as personalities. They’re quarterbacks. I think they can get better and I believe they will get better.
“So I think the team has components. And I think everyone understands that with the draft pick being No. 2, that’s exciting and we’re going to get some more youth in there. And it’s how our staff matches up to that youth. We’ve got to be frank about that. We have to say sometimes we’re going to fall down and skin our knees, and we’re going to run into some walls. But you certainly need somebody who’s optimistic, who’s positive, and who keeps working away. And it’s an inch-by-inch process. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
As part of developing a new culture, the Bobcats unveiled new uniforms with a change in color scheme. Navy blue will now be the dominant color, light blue will be the secondary color, and orange will be minimized. In the past, a shade of grayish-blue was the dominant color and orange was used prominently.