You may not know Mike Dunlap, but he is a basketball magician. Just ask an Arizona fan. Or check out his bow-tie.
He was only an associate head coach for the Arizona Wildcats for one season, but if you're the type of fan that subscribes to the idea of "once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat," then the news of Mike Dunlap being hired by the Charlotte Bobcats -- broken by the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell -- should top today's good news.
CHARLOTTE OBSERVER EXCLUSIVE: St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap has been has accepted the head coach of the Charlotte #Bobcats. (cont.)— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) June 19, 2012
People probably don't know the name, but don't think this is the Kwame Brown equivalent of a hire for Bobcats owner Michael Jordan.
While Dunlap did get the gig over big names like former Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan and Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw, those who have seen Dunlap's coaching first hand know that, at the very least, the guy has as good of a basketball mind as there is.
You know, leading the Wildcats' with Xs and Os next to Russ Pennell's motivational tactics only pushed an Arizona team, one with every reason to lose, into a Sweet 16 berth four years ago.
And those who took note at his next stop in Oregon and then his next gig at St. John's after the Ducks fired Ernie Kent know that Dunlap knows his stuff.
He was odd in nature, it's true. Refusing to take a Division I job, even on an interim basis, comes across as weird. He's the mad scientist of the basketball world, quiet in nature but respected across the college and professional landscapes.
Could he be the lead man? For an NBA team?
He won two Division II titles at Metro State, so there's that. He connected with Arizona's players in his short time in Tucson, and former point guard Nic Wise showed his support after the news broke.
WHOA big congrats to Mike Dunlap! (Bobcats new head coach) who was my college Coach at #Arizona for a year— Nic Wise (@TheNicWise) June 19, 2012
Dunlap even took over head coaching duties at St. John's while he was the associate head coach, covering during Steve Lavin's recovery from prostate cancer.
Of course, the cynic could say that dealing with NBA prima donna's is a totally different skill than connecting with college kids. But he applied for the job. His experience under the Nuggets' George Karl, who told the New York Times four years ago how much he respected Dunlap, should give Dunlap an idea of what he's getting himself into.
"He's the most intelligent person that has a love for the game of basketball that I've ever been around," Karl told the Times. "His ability to analyze and articulate and figure out the problems of day-to-day basketball was incredible for me."
Success remains to be seen, especially with a team expected to do nothing but struggle next year. Dunlap's patented 1-3-1 defense won't be as utilized in the NBA. What else does he have up his sleeve?
The bar is set low, however, and for a guy that made a miracle season out of Tucson's dry, thin air, just know that there are fans rooting for his success.