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Friday, February 5, 2010
A different ballgame

By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com

Mike Dunleavy's decision to step down as coach of the Clippers on Thursday wasn't easy. Truth be told, there's a part of him that wishes he were still coaching, even though it had become obvious to all involved that the team could benefit from a new voice in the huddle

But the fact that he could keep his job as general manager made the situation more palatable.

"I wanted to stay with this organization and see things through. Personally I would've rather done it as a successful coach and keep doing what I do because I love to do it,'' Dunleavy said. "But as long as I had my owner endorsing me and I felt positive there, I thought why not make the change so I can go forward on a positive note as the general manager of the team, keep steering it in the right direction and give Kim [Hughes] a chance.

"A lot of times, just making a change period, maybe there's a pop in there, maybe we can get that good one and have the group we have now stay healthy the rest of the year and finish out strong.''

Just for argument's sake though, what would've happened if he wasn't able to simply move upstairs and exclusively act as general manager? Would he have made the same move Thursday?

"That was the whole impetus for it," Dunleavy said. "Otherwise I wouldn't have done [this]. I would've kept clawing and trying to pull myself up, get back on the ship. But knowing this and knowing that I had a lot of confidence in where we are, I felt good about that and my role as [GM]."

So just how are things going to be different under the 6-foot-11 Hughes?

For starters, practices will be shorter, film sessions will be shorter and the playbook will be greatly simplified.

"For me, shorter is sweeter,'' Hughes said after conducting his first practice as head coach Friday. "We need to shorten the intelligence factor and make things simpler for us. We've gotten stale. There's so much things, our guys were kind of fried."

That hands-off approach seems like it'll be immediately popular with Clippers players.

"Coach Dunleavy is a fighter,'' point guard Baron Davis said. "He's a competitor and we learned a lot. I thought our relationship really grew, as far as me just being a better point guard and giving us that fire to compete.

"We just got to keep moving on. We've got Kim Hughes here. We're going to embrace him as our coach, listen to everything he has to say and just try and win this by committee.

"Kim is a different person, he has his own take on the game. As players we'll conform to how the head coach sees fit. ''

Davis said that he'll still seek advice from Dunleavy on how he can be a better leader and improve his game. He and his now former coach spoke at length Thursday night after Dunleavy had stepped away.

"It just shows a lot of who he is and his character that he's willing to step aside and let somebody else come in and have another voice on this team,'' Davis said.

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com