The Charlotte Bobcats have hired St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap to be their new head coach, two people familiar with the decision said.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because an official announcement was still being planned for the next two days.
The Charlotte Observer first reported the news. And St. John’s reported on its athletic department website that Dunlap was leaving for Charlotte.
“The Johnnies basketball family is ecstatic for Coach Dunlap’s opportunity,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said in a news release posted on redstormsports.com. “Mike’s selection as the Charlotte Bobcats’ head coach is testament to both Mike’s abilities as a teacher and our basketball program’s marked improvement over the past 27 months.”
The choice comes as a bit of a surprise because Dunlap, 54, was not one of the team’s three finalists and rejoined the picture late.
He was originally one of the 10 candidates to interview for the job, but the team trimmed the list to former Utah coach Jerry Sloan, Indiana assistant coach Brian Shaw and Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Quin Snyder last week.
At some point Dunlap re-entered the picture and was offered and accepted the job Monday night.
A text message sent to Dunlap was not immediately returned.
Dunlap will replace Paul Silas, whose contract was not renewed after Charlotte finished with the worst winning percentage in NBA history this past season. The Bobcats were 7-59.
A former assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets, Dunlap assumed all duties with the St. John’s program after head coach Steve Lavin took a leave of absence to deal with prostate cancer.
Dunlap has spent most of his career at the college level and has worked under Lute Olson in Arizona.
He joined St. John’s after serving as the associate head coach on Pac-10 staffs at Arizona and Oregon.
Arizona went 21-14 in 2008-09, advancing to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 before ending the season with a loss to top-seeded Louisville in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinal game. Dunlap joined Oregon’s staff in 2009-10 and the Ducks posted a 16-16 record.
Prior to working at Arizona and Oregon, Dunlap spent two seasons in the NBA with the Nuggets working under head coach George Karl.
Karl said Monday night that the Bobcats are getting “one of the most creative defensive minds I’ve ever worked with.”
The Nuggets compiled a 95-69 (.579) record during his tenure and made two playoff appearances, including a 50-win season for the 2007-08 Denver squad, a first for the organization in 23 seasons.
Early in his career, Dunlap also served as an assistant coach at Southern California under George Raveling, and as an assistant coach at Iowa. He also spent five years as an assistant at his alma mater, Loyola Marymount University.
In between he spent 10 years at Metropolitan State College of Denver.