The New York Knicks lost on their leading head coaching candidate because they low balled him. The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t really started their search. However, one name that comes up in connection with both teams is Mike Dunleavy, who hasn’t worked in the NBA for the past four seasons.
The Knicks fired Mike Woodson at the end of last season, and with Phil Jackson at the helm seem to be working vigorously at setting up a head coach before starting to work on a roster that has a lot of problems in it but without too much flexibility. Steve Kerr seemed like the leading candidate, but the negotiations dragged on and according to some recent rumors, Jackson low-balled Kerr compared to the money and the power he was given by the Warriors, making him choose against working under his former coach.
Dunleavy and Jackson have a connection as well. The two have a friendly relationship from their days in the NBA together back in the 1970s, and have coached against each other in the past, including being in Los Angeles at the same time. Dunleavy was the head coach of the Lakers when they made the 1991 NBA finals against Jackson’s Bulls. He was also the head coach of the Blazers, getting knocked out of the playoffs by the Lakers twice in 2000 and 2001 when Jackson was their head coach.
What is the rationale behind bringing him to the Lakers? The ownership might be looking to bring in a veteran head coach which pleases Kobe Bryant, seemingly putting out a vibe of going for a title in the next two years. There are still plenty of question marks that have to do with how the Lakers’ roster will look like next season as almost no one besides Bryant and Nash (if he doesn’t retire) are signed, and there hasn’t been a massive effort into filling the head coaching role as of now.
So while the Lakers connecting seems thin and slim, we thought the same thing about Kerr and the Warriors. Van Gundy didn’t go where everyone expected him to. This offseason for coaching vacancies has been about surprises, so while Dunleavy has already been meeting with Phil Jackson in what are obviously more than simply friendly gatherings about small talk and chatting about the family, we’ve been surprised more than once about the final destinations of coaches.
Dunleavy’s latest gig was with the Clippers from 2003 until stepping down from the job in 2010. He made the playoffs only once with the team (2005-2006), posting just one winning season with the team. He has an overall 613-716 record as an NBA head coach, making the playoffs seven times during his 16 seasons at the job. He made the NBA finals once with the Lakers in 1991 and the conference finals twice while working in Portland in 1999 and 2000.