Michael Jordan Masking His Own Failures with Mike Dunlap Fire
When Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan sent head coach Mike Dunlap packing on April 24, it marked the latest in a series of buck-passing moves over the past few years that have made one thing crystal clear: His Airness is failing miserably as the Bobcats' owner.
According to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Jordan's club will spend the summer searching for a coach. That'll hardly constitute new territory for the perennially lottery-bound franchise, as Dunlap is now the fourth coach to get the axe since Jordan came on as an owner in 2006.
As a minority stakeholder, MJ presided over the hiring of Sam Vincent in 2007. That experiment lasted just one season, as Vincent got his walking papers after amassing a 32-50 record.
Jordan then used his North Carolina connections to coax Larry Brown out of retirement. The Hall of Famer presided over an 88-108 mark during his tenure from April 29, 2008 to December 22, 2010, a span that included the franchise's lone playoff berth.
But even that relatively successful chapter in Jordan's ownership history ended with a predictable thud: Brown burned out on the poorly constructed, often dysfunctional Bobcats and Jordan was once again on the hunt for a new coach.
Paul Silas came next, and his time in charge went far worse than Brown's did. While compiling a 32-88 record over parts of two seasons, Silas probably made his most notable splash as coach for shoving forward Tyrus Thomas into a locker during a postgame argument.
Silas was out after the disastrous 2011-12 campaign that saw Charlotte amass the lowest single-season winning percentage in NBA history.
Dunlap followed, a surprise hiring out of St. John's with no NBA head-coaching experience and a reputation as a detail-oriented, hard-driving taskmaster. Shockingly, Jordan's latest hire has now officially failed.
Based on the reports Bonnell cites in his story, it was apparent almost immediately that Dunlap wasn't cut out to coach on the professional level. His micromanaging style and four-hour practices never had a chance of working. Clearly, firing Dunlap was the right decision.
But Jordan only had to make it because hiring Dunlap in the first place was so obviously a wrong one.
The inability to retain a decent coach falls squarely at Jordan's feet, especially since he became the team's majority owner in 2010. But to be fair, no coach could possibly have succeeded under Jordan's reign because the players (and the individuals Jordan hired to draft and develop them) have been so comically terrible.
There's been some debate over whether Jordan, who joined the Bobcats ownership group less than two weeks before the 2006 draft, was responsible for the franchise's most notorious blunder. But technically, Charlotte took Adam Morrison with the No. 3 selection that year on MJ's watch, ahead of the following players:
—Brandon Roy (6)
—Rudy Gay (8)
—J.J. Redick (11)
—Thabo Sefolosha (13)
—Rajon Rondo (21)
—Kyle Lowry (24)
Granted, hindsight is helpful in determining that Jordan's team erred in its first draft with him at the helm. But the team's subsequent track record in the talent evaluation department has followed the same disappointing precedent set by the selection of Morrison.
And Jordan has been responsible for hiring the person responsible for all of the franchise's ugly picks since then.
Rod Higgins has been MJ's man since 2007, serving first as general manager and now as the president of basketball operations.
Under Higgins, not one Bobcats draftee has made an All-Star team. That's stunning, especially considering that Charlotte has had six picks in the top 20 since 2007.
In his first year as GM, Higgins snagged Brandan Wright at No. 8, one selection ahead of Joakim Noah. Of course, Wright never played for the Bobcats, as Higgins shipped him to Golden State for Jason Richardson.
In 2008, Charlotte took D.J. Augustin ahead of Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, JaVale McGee, Ryan Anderson and Serge Ibaka—just to name a few.
Gerald Henderson was the pick in 2009, ahead of Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Jeff Teague.
You get the idea.
Higgins is definitely to blame for his consistently poor talent evaluation, but Jordan is just as culpable for continuing to employ him.
Think about it: The only constants in the organization's recent history have been Jordan as owner and Higgins as the man making most of the personnel decisions. MJ hired his friend to find talent and select coaches six years ago, and despite a dismal track record, Higgins is still serving in that role.
Because he owns the club, Jordan isn't going anywhere. But if he's not capable of seeing that the best way to change the culture in Charlotte is to oust the man primarily responsible for creating it, then there's not much reason to expect improvement anytime soon.
Pathologically competitive and remarkably insecure (see his Hall of Fame induction speech for proof of both), Jordan can't be happy with all of the embarrassing losing his team has been doing over the past few seasons. But admitting failure is not exactly in No. 23's DNA.
As long as he's in charge, the coaches will keep coming and going, the draft picks will keep being busts and the plan will change from year to year. But Jordan won't accept the blame.
Outside of having the money to purchase a team, Jordan hasn't exhibited a single quality that indicates his fitness to run a franchise. And Dunlap's firing is just the latest proof.
*Stats via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.
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