A franchise in rebuilding mode? Check. A team chock full of young, talented players? Check. An organization with more high draft picks on the way? Check again. A first-time NBA head coach ready to lead the team through all of that? Well, the Charlotte Bobcats hope so.
To many, particularly hopeful Charlotte fans, the Bobcats’ situation looks a lot like that of the Oklahoma City Thunder just a few years ago when they were still in Seattle. They hope the Bobcats can get to a similar point and the team went a similar route in selecting a coach to try and take them there when they hired Mike Dunlap this week.
Mike Dunlap joined WFNZ in Charlotte with The Drive to discuss how the hiring process went down, why he’s the right fit, his message to fans, the style of play he hopes to implement, if Oklahoma City is a blueprint for success, what he’s looking for in the No. 2 overall pick and why it’s taken him so long to get this opportunity.
How did all of this happen?:
“They just asked if I’d like to interview and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I said the absolutely part real quick and got down here and interviewed. … It went all right, I guess, because I got a second one.”
Why are you the right choice for this job?:
“I just think that the fit part of it is the development of young talent. And, secondly, is having a design that’s in line with what management wants from the top down. Third would be able to convey that message and communicate and have lasting relationships with players. The ability to be able to communicate.”
What would you tell fans in the area in terms of calming their fears about having a team that hasn’t been successful and a first-time NBA head coach?:
“One is they want somebody that’s visible regardless of the result, that’s honest with them. So just the ability to communicate and say, ‘Here’s where we’re at, here’s what we’re doing,’ and be transparent in that form I think is really important, especially in this day and age with social media. … Two is that I think just the ability to work incredibly hard and instill that in your group. People will come and if they understand that it’s going to take a while to get someplace, they just don’t want laziness. … Then, three is you can see that they’re getting better. … There will be some setbacks, and when the setbacks happen, they want somebody that’s just honest about it.”
On his philosophy on evaluating talent and his preferred style of play:
“Last year’s team, you talked about a hangover as far as people watching that team. It’s just more a statement of what it was, no criticism toward anybody. But people don’t like when you give up a lot of layups. Defensively, you can’t give the rim up. … Then the very thing that you don’t want to give up, you want to get. You want to get layups. That means you’ve got to move down the floor at a little bit quicker rate. … I just think that in simplistic terms, those are two things you can address right away.”
Do you feel like the Oklahoma City Thunder can be a blueprint for this organization?:
“I think that it’s one way and in this day and age, it’s probably the right way, as witnessed by their results. One player, in basketball, can make a difference. Let’s say if you look at football, you’re going to need a couple really, really good picks at each position. You’ve got to know your depth chart. In basketball, Kevin Durant flipped that thing around, Westbrook not far behind and then it took time to develop. … What you’re trying to do is the same thing here and they’re in position to get another good, young guy. But the second part of that is you’ve got to do things the right way. The right way is through development and teaching.”
Is there a player that you can get with that No. 2 overall pick that you lean toward as far as being the future of the franchise?:
“For me, to point those names out means I’m shooting from the hip in terms of just coming into town and then all of the sudden you get this opinionated guy who’s not saying the right thing. The right thing for me is, ‘What are you looking for?’ Last year’s team had a hard time scoring. Part of the criteria, I don’t care who you are, you’ve probably got to lean or tilt it towards that and if you’re going to go the other way, then you’re going to tilt it towards somebody who’s a huge defensive player … an Anthony Davis-type.”
Why has it taken you so long to get an opportunity like this?:
“I could be defensive about the question and put up a bunch of smoke here, but the fact of the matter is I coached for my dinner overseas and coached professionally … and if you don’t win, they send you home in a bag without paying you and I had three little ones in Australia. … My point is that I’ve had some interesting experiences where in fact it was pretty intense. It doesn’t make me an NBA coach or NBA-ready, but a lot of eclectic experiences.”