Mike Dunleavy and the Hangover effect

February, 5, 2010
2/05/10
4:28
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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For Mike Dunleavy, there have been several flash points over the past couple of months when he thought it might be time to hang it up:

  • A 124-93 loss to Phoenix on Christmas Day on national television when his team essentially quit on him in the second half.
  • The bizarre incident in Memphis when the Clippers were only 12 minutes away from .500 when Fedex Forum was evacuated due to a broken water main. After a 36-minute delay, the Clippers fizzled in the fourth quarter. "We had a major momentum opportunity," Dunleavy said. "That was a bummer. It was a drain. I had counted on [our winning]."
  • The endless carousel of injuries that has kept the Clippers from putting their full portfolio of talent on the floor together for extended periods. "Injury after injury," Dunleavy said. "Every time I think I got someone coming back, it doesn't happen. Or something else happens."
  • The mortifying loss to the Nets on the Clippers' recent road trip. "If you go back and look at my quotes leading up to the New Jersey game, you would have thought we were playing the Boston Celtics with Bill Russell," Dunleavy said. "That one really disappointed me, and had a big part in my making the decision."
  • His final game, a tough loss to Atlanta at Philips Arena when the Clippers let a 13-point lead get away in the waning minutes of the third quarter, a Hawks run that featured the dreaded 4-point play. "I sort of said to myself, 'Maybe they're not hearing me,'" Dunleavy said. "Maybe another voice could do it."

But the clincher, the moment Dunleavy says he was done as the Clippers' head coach?

It was on the plane home from Atlanta:

I was walking by [Clippers broadcaster] Ralph [Lawler] ... He sits right behind me and he's laughing. I went to use the restroom -- I was studying film, doing whatever -- and I said, "What are you watching?"

And Ralph said, "I'm watching this movie, 'The Hangover,'"

I said, "All my boys have seen it and said they loved it."

And I'm sitting there and I said to myself, "You know, I need a break."

I said, "Ralph, when you're finished with that movie, let me know."

He gave me the movie, and I laughed. And I got in my own head and I'm thinking, "Wow."

One of our guys saw me laughing. He thought I was asleep and he says, "Coach!"

I look up and he said, "What are you laughing at?"

I said, "I'm watching this film."

He said, "Oh, I thought you were asleep and were laughing in your dreams."

I think he was shocked that I was watching a movie as opposed to nonstop film. At that point in my own mind, I said the same thing, "This is a sign that it's time to take a break. Time to recharge the batteries ... You're burnt out on this."

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