Clippers GM Dunleavy drops coaching duties
Mike Dunleavy stepped down as the Los Angeles Clippers’ head
coach Thursday, retaining his job as general manager.
Assistant coach Kim Hughes will be the interim replacement for
Dunleavy, who has led the Clippers to just one winning season since
taking over the star-crossed franchise in 2003.
The Clippers abruptly announced the moves in an afternoon news
release, saying the decision was voluntary and mutual. Los Angeles
(21-28) has lost five of six heading into Saturday’s home game
against San Antonio, with another once-promising season in danger
of slipping away.
“It just seems clear that the team needs a fresh voice, and we
hope that our players will respond in a positive way,” Clippers
president Andy Roeser said in a statement.
Despite a talented roster including Baron Davis, Chris Kaman,
Eric Gordon and Marcus Camby, the Clippers are in 12th place in the
Western Conference. Los Angeles dropped a season-worst seven games
under .500 with six losses on a just-completed eight-game road
Perhaps the Clippers Curse has a bit to do with it as well:
Blake Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in last summer’s draft, will
miss the entire season after breaking his kneecap in Los Angeles’
final preseason game.
Dunleavy, who said he had “several conversations” recently
with owner Donald Sterling about the Clippers’ direction, is the
winningest coach in franchise history – admittedly not a high bar
to clear on a team with just two winning seasons in 30 years and
only one playoff series victory since moving to Los Angeles in
“I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the ideal time for me
to direct my efforts toward the many personnel opportunities that
lie before us, such as the trade market, the draft and the free
agent process,” said Dunleavy, who added GM duties to his coaching
responsibilities in 2008. “We fully expect to be active and
productive on all those fronts.”
Hughes, a former ABA and NBA player who has never been a head
coach, has been Dunleavy’s assistant since the start in Los
Angeles. He spent several years on the Nuggets’ bench before
joining the Clippers, and has been a scout in Denver and
Dunleavy was 215-325 in 6 1/2 seasons on the bench, and Los
Angeles made the playoffs just once in his first six seasons,
getting within one game of the Western Conference finals in 2006.
The Clippers haven’t been back to the playoffs since, winning just
42 games in the past two seasons.
Dunleavy played for Philadelphia, Houston, San Antonio and
Milwaukee during his career, but the Brooklyn native’s entire
coaching career has been downhill from his debut season with the
Los Angeles Lakers in 1990-91, when he reached the NBA finals.
After just two seasons with the Lakers, he coached four losing
seasons in Milwaukee before a moderately successful four-season run
with the Portland Trail Blazers.
After hiring Dunleavy in 2003, the much-criticized Sterling
showed considerable patience, extending the coach’s contract
through 2011 after that sole playoff run – and even sticking with
him through the Clippers’ 19-63 misery of a 2008-09 season.
Dunleavy’s record as a personnel executive is actually fairly
solid, which made his failures as the Clippers’ coach even more
glaring. He replaced Elgin Baylor as the Clippers’ top basketball
executive before last season, uprooting Baylor from a job he had
held since 1986.
Despite adding Rasual Butler and Craig Smith to a well-stocked
roster that still should have ample salary cap space to sign a
major free agent this summer, the Clippers have struggled even to
reach .500 this season.
“As we approach the trade deadline, the NBA draft and the
upcoming free agent period, our team is very well-positioned from a
salary cap standpoint,” Roeser said. “Mike’s experienced input
will be vitally important as we continue to develop our young
talented nucleus and shape our team’s future.”