The first shots of this pivotal offseason for the Charlotte Bobcats have been fired in dramatic fashion.
Less than a week after the conclusion of their season, Charlotte made the fairly shocking decision to fire Mike Dunlap after only one season as head coach.
Most people are going to look at this scenario, in which the Bobcats went from 7-59 under Paul Silas to 21-61 under Mike Dunlap (tripling their win total), as a ridiculous move by the management in Charlotte, but make no mistake: As a fan who watched every single game they played this season, it was not a mistake.
People will point out that Mike Dunlap was not the problem for the Bobcats, and they will be right. He was not the problem, because the word "the" implies one problem.
But he certainly was a problem.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece slamming Mike Dunlap for his coaching methods and how he has failed in developing key players of the team.
Gerald Henderson exploded down the stretch, but he did the same thing last season. On top of that, he was coming off an injury to begin the season, and it took him time to get back to full strength. Dunlap had little-to-no developmental input with Henderson.
Kemba Walker is one of the most improved players in the NBA this season, but he can't attribute that to Dunlap. Walker proved in his rookie season that he had all the tools necessary to be a starting point guard in the league; it was just a matter of finding his footing, which he did this season.
Bismack Biyombo's improvement was due primarily to his unbelievable work ethic and help from peripheral coaches, not Dunlap himself.
And as far as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the aforementioned article says it all. Dunlap failed MKG on every level, and I will not back off of that opinion.
Dunlap played MKG erratically, giving him 14 minutes one night, then 34 the next, back down to 15, and so on and so forth. All told, MKG—a pillar who Dunlap was specifically brought in to develop—only averaged 26 minutes per game, when he should have been averaging 34-36.
Dunlap's rotations were mind-bogglingly awful and lost this team more than a handful of games. Having his entire bench on the floor with a single-digit deficit with two minutes left is bad coaching, and Mike Dunlap is to be held responsible. That's when you play your starters, not the guys you play to finish blowouts. So many of his coaching SNAFUs made absolutely no sense, and at times while watching I would just drop my head and wonder what he was thinking.
He did many, many things wrong. He pushed four-hour practices regularly and exhausted players on or before game days. He clung to a 2-3 zone defense constantly that left the perimeter wide open for exploitation, allowing teams to throw down warm up shots from beyond the arc.
And perhaps, most importantly, he didn't change. He clung to his poor rotations. He clung to his zone defense and college coaching mentality. He clung to holding insane practice hours for a team that, while young, would still be noticeably worn out at the end of games.
To make things even worse for Dunlap and the decision for management easier, the players didn't like him. And I'm not just talking about Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas. Many players had predominantly negative things to say about Dunlap after the season ended. Qualms ranged from long practices and pure exhaustion to his cold demeanor and inability to connect with the players.
For a guy who was supposed to develop the young core, Dunlap instead was viewed as negative and unapproachable.
If you're Pat Riley, you can get away with that. If you're a first-year head coach just coming out of being an assistant on a team that would've been clobbered by many of the players on your current team, you'd better be prepared to at least be a nice guy when you're pushing four-hour practices regularly.
Dunlap almost definitely had a method to his madness, but his method failed. If he had adjusted as the season went on, he might have been able to keep his job, but he kept trying to push the square peg into the round hole the entire season, and it absolutely did not work.
It will be viewed by the majority as hasty, and many will look at Michael Jordan and say it's just another bad product of his miserable ownership.
But Jordan doesn't have a stronghold on this organization anymore. Sure, he has the final say, but he brought in a team to help fix this team, and his word is not the only word like it was even a year ago.
The Bobcats took a risk by hiring Dunlap, who had very little coaching experience at the professional level and wasn't even the head coach at a good collegiate team upon his hiring. It was an experiment that failed.
Perhaps this time the Bobcats will try to look for more established coaches...there are plenty of them out there. Perhaps they'll look into college teams again, trying to find another guy ready to move up from college and into the NBA, but hopefully—if they go that route—it won't be an assistant coach from a team that isn't very competitive.
I don't know where the Bobcats are going to go now in regards to coaching.
I do know that firing Dunlap, albeit a bit shocking, was the right move.
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