Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Los Angeles Lakers [Print without images]

Friday, May 13, 2011
Mike Dunleavy on the short list to succeed Phil Jackson

By Brian Kamenetzky

Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin reporting:
"The Los Angeles Lakers have had to replace two coaching legends in the last 20 years: Phil Jackson and Pat Riley. The only time it's worked out well, the team turned to Mike Dunleavy. They're thinking of doing the same again this time. Dunleavy was contacted by the team this week and is said to be on the team's current "short list" to succeed Jackson, according to a source with knowledge of the situation...

...Dunleavy is currently awaiting judgment in his arbitration hearing with the Los Angeles Clippers, who stopped paying the balance of his contract after they fired him as general manager last year. Dunleavy earlier had resigned as coach after going 215-326 with the Clippers. Though his recent history with the Clippers was unsuccessful, Dunleavy is still viewed as a strong tactician with an impressive history of postseason success. He was the NBA Coach of the Year in 1999 with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Lakers have always thought fondly of the job he did in replacing Riley in 1990, leading the team to an upset over the Trail Blazers in the 1991 Western Conference finals before losing to Jackson's Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. Dunleavy has maintained a friendship with Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and his son, Jim Buss. As recently as last year, he watched Lakers games with Buss from his suite at Staples Center. He also has a long history with Bryant, whom he courted and nearly convinced to join the Clippers as a free agent in 2004..."

Dunleavy's name is one that came up relatively early in the process, thanks to the good relationship with ownership and management referenced in the story, as well as a decent history in the league. Still, it seems very unlikely the Lakers would actually go his direction. For one thing, from a P.R. standpoint, it would be a nightmare. While he's had a great deal of success over the course of his career, Dunleavy is far too closely associated with the Clippers to make this work. The citizenry would storm the castle. It's not necessarily fair, but for a team like the Lakers, this sort of thing matters.

Moreover, stylistically Dunleavy seems a poor fit. He's more a micromanager, keeping a tight grip on everything on the floor. Beyond the idea that the Lakers have a versatile roster filled with high I.Q. guys deserving of more latitude, I don't know if Dunleavy and Kobe Bryant would mesh all that well together, despite what appears to be a perfectly cordial relationship. Granted, his approach could be different with a veteran group like L.A.'s but it still seems like a bad idea.

The Lakers could very well be doing Dunleavy a solid, helping get his name out there to pump up interest in other open jobs around the league. I can't imagine he'll actually be the guy here, when the dust settles.