Tulane's Dunleavy explains decision to try college now
NEW ORLEANS (AP) After decades in the NBA as a player and coach, Mike Dunleavy Sr. began his first college coaching job by saying he wanted to take over Tulane's languishing men's basketball program to put himself ''in position to coach again and really to be a teacher.''
Tulane, which formally introduced Dunleavy in its on-campus arena Tuesday, is hoping the 62-year-old Dunleavy's 17 years of experience coaching at professional basketball's highest level will translate well in college. He last coached in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers from 2003 to 2010.
Athletic director Troy Dannen said Dunleavy approached Tulane about its opening. He replaces Ed Conroy, who coached Tulane for six seasons.
''There was one objective in the search,'' Dannen said. ''That was to find somebody that had a defibrillator in their pocket - basically, the guy that could come in and put that defibrillator down and shock what I think is a sleeping giant back to life.''
Tulane went 12-22 this season and has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 1995.
''I needed somebody with charisma. I needed someone that was a great evaluator of talent - somebody that was a great teacher,'' Dannen said. ''We need a different level of confidence about who we are and what we can do.''
For his part, Dunleavy said one of his qualifications for coaching in college include the fact that he has ''produced three Division I basketball players in my family,'' referring to his sons, Mike Jr. (who played at Duke), Baker (Villanova) and James (Southern Cal). His references, he added, are, ''Dunleavy, Dunleavy and Dunleavy.''
His resume also includes coaching the Los Angeles Lakers (1990-92), Milwaukee Bucks (1992-96) and Portland Trail Blazers (1997-2001).
Dannen drew laughs during the news conference when he stressed that Dunleavy will find it easier to work with Tulane's athletic administration than with former Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
The AD also stressed that his new coach, whose wife's sister lives in New Orleans, ''has a passion for us and he has a passion for this city.''
Indeed, Dunleavy was part of a prospective ownership that tried to buy the New Orleans Hornets with the goal of keeping the NBA franchise in the city. Instead, Tom Benson, who also owns the NFL's New Orleans Saints, bought the Hornets in 2012 and renamed them the Pelicans.
Dunleavy said his ties to New Orleans were an important factor in pursuing the Tulane job. Given that he hoped to have a 10-15 year run in whatever college job he took, one of his requirements was ''being in a community that I know I would enjoy living and being a part of it.'' He said New Orleans, with its renowned eateries, music, festivals and franchises in both the NBA and NFL, should be an attractive place for top student-athletes.
The South has good basketball talent, he said, and pointed out that there are plenty of relatively small, private schools like Tulane that win in college basketball - namely, current Final Four team Villanova, where his son, Baker, is an assistant.
''There's no reason why you can't win in a big way here,'' Dunleavy said. ''I may be naive, but that's my goal.''
Dunleavy won 613 regular season games as an NBA head coach, which ranks 24th all-time. He has also coached his NBA teams to victories in 38 playoff games. He was named the 1999 NBA Coach of the Year with Portland.
His hiring marks the second major coaching move by Dannen, who was hired himself by Tulane in December and then quickly brought in Willie Fritz as the Green Wave's new football coach.
Dannen said he did not have Dunleavy on his initial list of about 20 candidates. But he stressed, ''I never would have even considered him to be available to us'' until Dunleavy's brother-in-law - New Orleans attorney and former Tulane football player Miles Clements - told Dannen that Dunleavy was interested.
Dannen acknowledged there is some risk to hiring a former NBA coach in his 60s who has never coached in college and hasn't coached at all in half-a-dozen years.
''I knew it was unconventional. There's a risk in any hire,'' Dannen said. ''I did my diligence on Mike because not all pro guys are great teachers. ... He's a great teacher.''