Mike Dunlap will need some help on the court

Mike Dunlap will need some help on the court

Published Jun. 20, 2012 5:26 p.m. ET

Mike Dunlap's name doesn't roll off the tongues of most basketball fans. Not to mention many hardcore ones.

But winning the news conference in the NBA isn't the same thing as winning it in college. It's far more important in college to excite a fan base with a coaching hire than it is in pro sports because fans don't buy NBA tickets to see coaches. They buy them to see players.

And in the Charlotte Bobcats' case, they need players.

Charlotte had a solid coach in Paul Silas this past season, but the poor-shooting Bobcats finished with the worst winning percentage in NBA history with a 7-59 record. It wasn't Silas' fault, and a sub-.500 mark next season wouldn't be Dunlap's fault, either. Phil Jackson wouldn't be able to get the Bobcats into the playoffs just yet.

Dunlap might be a diamond-in-the-rough hire. Those in the sport who know him well, notably longtime NBA coach George Karl, reportedly have said he's excellent at working with people and will win over the locker room. He's a lifer in the business with extensive experience at various levels in college, plus he has been an assistant in the NBA and a head coach overseas. At 55, the man has seen a ton of basketball and coached myriad of styles.

Dunlap, who filled in as head coach at St. John's this past season while Steve Lavin battled cancer, said he's now ready for such an opportunity and challenge.

"I have a lot of experience at 32 years in being on the trails, and half of my career has been as a head coach," Dunlap said. "So again, the frequency of tough decisions on and off the floor I've had my share, put it that way. . . .

"So I think I'm ready for that kind of chance."

Even if Dunlap is the next Gregg Popovich, he's in for a long and difficult ride. Dunlap said when he coached overseas he did so "for your dinner." The pressure of knowing he could be axed at any time was a driving force. Now he's in a situation where he should have a few years to help plan and build the organization. And to do that, Dunlap needs more help on the court.

Charlotte has the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft next week, and the team has worked out a healthy handful of players, including some who aren't regarded as No. 2-quality talents. Thus, it's obvious the team is giving serious consideration to trading the pick.

At No. 2, they could get a Thomas Robinson from Kansas, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky or Florida's Bradley Beal. Nice players, but maybe the best move is to trade down to the Nos. 8-12 range while also acquiring a proven player.

Then, being nearly $21 million under the salary cap, the Bobcats could sign a quality free agent no older than his mid-20s. That's three new players who could be around for a while.

Charlotte might own a high draft choice again next year, so more help will be on the way, along with plenty of money under the cap.

Dunlap is an extremely hard worker, Bobcats general manager Rich Cho said Wednesday. He wants to play fast and hard and might well foster a climate that will make Charlotte a more appealing home to free agents. That's the biggest upside now.

But his X's and O's coaching ability isn't really the issue at this time. The coach won't matter so much until the roster is upgraded.