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Jun
21
2012

Mike Dunlap's Hiring and The Fall of Michael Jordan

New Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap has yet to realize he was the tenth choice.

When he went into retirement for the second time after winning his sixth championship, everyone believed that Michael Jordan was beyond human. His accomplishments and his gifts with a basketball in his hands seemed supernatural. I will not review what he did as a player because the stats are well-known. But by 1998, Michael Jordan could do absolutely nothing wrong (yes, haters, that includes Space Jam). The rules of this planet did not apply to him, because he seemed above it all.

Since 1998, he has steadily and spectacularly come back to Earth. He made another comeback as a player with the Washington Wizards, was their general manager as well, and in 2010, he became the first former NBA player to become a team owner when Robert Johnson gave him complete ownership of the Charlotte Bobcats after he had held a minority stake in the team since 2006. Since Jordan became owner, the Bobcats have endured a historic stretch of futility culminating in the worst season in NBA history this past year. While most people would assume that there is nowhere to go from there but up, I am here to say that with the recent appointment of former St. John’s assistant coach Mike Dunlap, things probably will not get worse, but there is no reason to expect the team to get any better either.

I have nothing against Mike Dunlap as a coach or as a person. I’m not intimately familiar with his coaching style, but I assume that he is a pretty sharp guy who will work hard and care about trying to make his players better. However, the reason that Dunlap was such a poor hire by Charlotte relates to his lack of proper coaching experience.

Before becoming the Bobcats’ head coach, he had never held a true head coaching position above Division III. He does have some NBA experience, having served as an assistant under George Karl in Denver from 2006 to 2008. He then found himself in assistant positions at Arizona and Oregon before landing in his most recent position as an assistant to Steve Lavin at St. Johns. While the Red Storm did well in Lavin’s first year and made the NCAA tournament, Dunlap remained mostly anonymous. However, this past season, with Lavin unable to coach most of the season while battling prostate cancer, Dunlap was unable to rally his (admittedly) young team and the Red Storm finished 13-19 for the season with him as interim head coach. It’s difficult to remember a resume like that getting NBA players excited to play for him.

But right now, the Bobcats do not seem to be operating on a professional level. During their recent run to an NCAA championship, many analysts wondered if Kentucky could beat the Charlotte Bobcats, and the concept was deemed almost laughable–but not quite outside the realm of possibility. Right now, the Charlotte Bobcats are a cataclysmic disaster of a franchise, which is amazing considering they made the playoffs just 3 seasons ago.

Since then, all of the key players on that team, including Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson, and Gerald Wallace (who had been with the team since expansion), were traded away for pennies on the dollar to save cap space that was never used. What’s left are young players who weren’t ready to hack it in the league yet (Bismack Biyombo, here’s lookin’ at you, kid), athletes who don’t quite know how to play the game (Kemba Walker, Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson), and veterans whose continued presence on an NBA roster remains a mystery even Sherlock Holmes couldn’t solve (Matt Carroll, Desagana Diop, please leave. You’ll be doing the game a favor). When one takes a look at the Bobcats’ roster as currently constructed, one cannot help but think of the Los Angeles Clippers teams that trolled the NBA for years before Blake Griffin and Chris Paul came in and changed that culture.

What is most shocking about the Bobcats is that they are not owned by a smug buffoon like Donald Sterling, but by one of the most competitive human beings to have ever lived. Michael Jordan was so maniacally competitive that when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, he used his induction speech to take down anyone who he thought had slighted him in the past, even in the most trivial of instances. His gambling exploits are the stuff of legend, even sparking rumors that he did not retire in 1994, but that David Stern forced him out because of them. The fact that Michael Jordan would grow content with mediocrity in any enterprise surprises those who worshipped him in his playing days for his indomitable will to win. Now, he seems more engaged in playing golf and smoking cigars than actually running his team.

To see Michael Jordan mishandle a coaching search so badly that he couldn’t even get Quin Snyder to want the job goes beyond the realm of comedy and into unvarnished tragedy. Yes, MJ’s legacy as a player will never die, but not for lack of trying on his part.

Jacob Meltzer writes for TheFanManifesto. The entire FanMan team can be followed on twitter at @TheFanManifesto, or liked on facebook by clicking here.

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