Somewhere Bill Simmons, the ESPN columnist who has made his dislike for Mike Dunleavy evident, is smiling.
The final link between Dunleavy and the Clippers was officially severed today. Word apparently arrived via e-mail and was shared with viewers of the Clippers game against the Orlando Magic by Clippers announcers Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith. No press conference, no semblance of order, not even a thank you in the official notice. Dunleavy is simply gone, and we are left to wonder what exactly is going on in Clipper Nation.
That's not to say this was unexpected. In seven years Dunleavy managed just a single winning season. Of course, when you compare that to his predecessors, that's not so bad, but a 1-for-7 average tends to get people fired.
In addition to less-than-expected results and more than enough time to deliver, Dunleavy was also a very well-paid G.M. When he stepped down as coach, Dunleavy became a $5 million-a-year G.M., a fact that must have made owner Donald Sterling bristle.
All that no doubt contributed to today's announcement, which was terse and seemed almost cruel. "The organization has determined that the goal of building a winning team is best served by making this decision at this time," the statement read.
"The team has simply not made sufficient progress during Dunleavy's seven-year tenure. The Clippers want to win now. This transition, in conjunction with a full commitment to dedicate unlimited resources, is designed to accomplish that objective."
Are they saying Dunleavy didn't want to win now? Saying there was no progress seems disingenuous as well. The team came within one game of the Western Conference Finals in 2006 and was positioned to progress save an unexpected defection by Elton Brand and a bad break by Blake Griffin's knee.
Finally, where is the thank you? Maybe it is in the full statement that we aren't privy to, but I am most bothered by the lack of gratitude.
Say what you want about Dunleavy, but it is undeniable that he took the Clippers further than they had ever gone. That alone deserves an exit with a tad more grace than the franchise showed today.
So, what was today's move exactly? Simply the release of an underachieving G.M.? A move to save money (because he was fired, Dunleavy is no doubt still entitled to his $5 million)? Or was it another block in the Clippers' attempt to build a bridge to Ohio?
The free agent frenzy of 2010 is upon us, and Dunleavy did all he could to position the Clippers as players in the game. Ironically, this latest move may have been the final piece of posturing by the club. L.A. has a lot to offer potential suitors, but all the positives are lost on some under the shadow of Clippers history.
For a player to come to L.A., it is going to take more than Venice Beach and the opportunity to show up to practice in flip-flops. It is going to take a shift in ideology that may very well begin with a coach.
Coaches have been rumored to have an interest in the Clippers job since Dunleavy stepped aside. Byron Scott and Avery Johnson were both immediately mentioned as potential new coaches. Most interesting was a rumor that Larry Brown had reached out to the Clippers to express his interest.
Sources that started that rumor—um, broke that story—made it clear that Brown would be interested only if the position came with control over player personnel. Was this the first step in extending an offer to him?
Or are the Clippers positioning themselves as a lump of clay free to be molded in the shape that any free agent would like? "Normal" players simply require a contract. "Great" players might require some incentives and bonuses.
However, the class of 2010 has a few players that fit into the "once in a lifetime" category. For those players, a contract, incentives and bonuses simply aren't enough. Players like them might want to have a say in everything from the G.M. to the cheerleaders.
The Clippers are now in position to oblige such requests.
Whatever the reason for Dunleavy's dismal, I don't share Simmons' disdain for him. He build the best Clippers team in franchise history and then rebuilt them when bad fortune struck. He drafted well and make trades that, more often than not, favored the Clippers. Sadly for Dunleavy, his moves didn't add up to wins often enough.
Is it a curse? Is it karma? Who knows, but the Clipper