Mike Dunlap, as has been echoed throughout the college basketball coaching fraternity today, is apparently one of the best unheard of coaches in the profession. Unheard of meaning he won two national titles at the Division II level, and many people don’t know DII coaches off the top of their heads.
In his two years with the Denver Nuggets and last season with Arizona, he made a believer out of interim head UA coach Russ Pennell, who got the interim job when Dunlap turned it down in October, dismayed it wouldn’t be a full-time job, he told the New York Times on March 25.
Here, then, was the conversation with Pennell tonight about Dunlap.
“Well I think it’s a great hire. Absolutely great hire. I think what you’re going to get from Mike Dunlap is you’re going to get a guy who is, from a basketball mind, just high end. Just great basketball IQ. The other side of it is he’s a purist. He loves the game. He’ll dedicate himself to Ernie and the program. I just think he will challenge players to be the best they can be. If those guys will buy in and listen they’ll be fine.”
“Some of the best coaches I’ve ever met are DII coaches. They have to do more with less. They have to take players and mold them and find out innovating ways to reach the pinnacle of their profession. (Two DII titles at Metro State) That’s no small feat, that’s huge.
“I just think he’s well rounded. He’s dealt with NBA players. He’s got a world of experience. When you have all those different things that’s gone on in your career you have a wealth to draw on.”
(Interesting that Dunlap chose to become an assistant again?)
“Mike’s whole deal is he wants to coach basketball. It’s not a deal with him that he has to be a head coach for his ego. It’s about an opportunity that he looks as a challenge.”
(Fundamentals, details like footwork are things he takes very seriously?)
He’s extremely detailed. He spent a lot of time with Pete Newell. He’s been to John Chaney’s practices at Temple. He’s spent time with John Wooden. He really, really studies the game. George Karl is still very close to him. He’s very detailed. That’s how I think the players get better.”
“There will be no nonsense from him. My advice to the Oregon players is stand at attention when coach Dunlap speaks.”
(Eds Note: He, after being told about Dunigan, Williams and Crittle’s misdemeanor charges on Monday, thought it rather in poor taste for the Ducks players to be shooting at ducks and geese.)
(What about Ernie sticking around?)
“Here’s what I think, and this is just a modern erea of sports but how quickly people forget. Because it was just two or three years ago that Ernie was in the Elite Eight. what have you done for me lately?
“I thought Ernie deserved to come back next year and see these young guys through. None of us in the professoin like to see peope have success and then have a downtime and lose their jobs.”
(And what are you up to with the job search, Russ?)
“I’ve got a few irons in the fire.”