In stunning development, St. John's assistant coach Mike Dunlap is leaving Queens after accepting Charlotte Bobcats' head coaching position. (Photo courtesy of Rumble In The Garden)
St. John's was already losing Moe Harkless after a season in which they played most of their 32 games with just six scholarship student-athletes. The Red Storm will now need to replace an assistant coach before the opening tip of the 2012-13 season this November.
In a shocking turn of events, assistant coach Mike Dunlap; who filled in admirably for head coach Steve Lavin during his time away from the bench due to prostate cancer surgery, has accepted the vacant Charlotte Bobcats head coaching position according to reports by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Dunlap, who has NBA experience as a former assistant to George Karl with the Denver Nuggets; became the choice after Quin Snyder, a Lakers assistant who was once the head coach at Missouri, turned the job down about a week after former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan did the same.
The 54-year-old Dunlap not only counts St. John's among his resume, as he also filled in for the legendary Lute Olson at Arizona when Olson took a medical leave in 2008, but was passed up in favor of Russ Pennell when it came to naming a successor to Olson the following year. When reached for comment, both his current and former employers offered glowing testimonials for the man who becomes the first NCAA assistant coach to jump from that position to a head coaching chair in the professional ranks.
"The Johnnies basketball family is ecstatic for Coach Dunlap's opportunity," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said in a statement issued last night. "To make the unprecedented jump from college assistant to NBA head coach is a testament to both Mike's abilities as a teacher and our basketball program's marked improvement over the past 27 months."
His former NBA boss was even more complimentary.
"Mike Dunlap absolutely elevates every player and team he comes into contact with," said George Karl. "He takes you from good to great. Name every elite coach in the game and the only difference between Mike and them is their addresses. There is absolutely no one better."
Dunlap brings an impressive resume to the table in Charlotte and carries a reputation for being one of the best basketball strategists in the nation. He will almost undoubtedly start preparing for the job in the coming hours, before his press conference even takes place. Moreover, Dunlap's pedigree and ability to turn young players from potential stars into solid professionals has already been displayed not just in Harkless, but also Dwight Hardy after the latter was voted Most Valuable Player in his league in Italy.
Although it is still unclear what Dunlap will do with the Charlotte roster in his first NBA Draft as a coach ten days from tonight, his hire bodes well for Kemba Walker, the guard who Dunlap coached against when St. John's played Connecticut. Based on Dwight Hardy's transformation two seasons ago, there is no reason to believe that Walker; an already proven winner who won a national championship under Jim Calhoun at Connecticut, cannot do the same given his mounds of potential and ability to thrive under pressure.
It is also unknown just who Steve Lavin will replace Dunlap with on his staff, but more details on Dunlap and his potential replacement will be relayed as they become available. A name already being thrown around as a prospective candidate is former Manhattan head coach Barry Rohrssen, who was once a Big East assistant under Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh; but again, this is just speculation, and nothing is official at this point.