How To...Coach Against Your Own Son It's a paternity predicament when the Clippers' MIKE DUNLEAVY SR. faces MIKE JR.

October 27, 2003

As if working for the league's most beleaguered franchise weren't
concern enough, Mike Dunleavy had another reason to think long
and hard last summer before he accepted the Clippers' coaching
job: Four times a year he would have to face his son Mike Jr., a
second-year forward for the Warriors. "Those few games," says
Mike Sr., "it's going to be.... Well, I don't know how it's going
to be." His uncertainty is understandable because never in NBA
history has a father coached against his son.

Competition between family members in pro sports has often
yielded uncomfortable affairs fraught with conflicting emotions.
(See Venus versus Serena.) And the Dunleavys have an
exceptionally tight father-son bond. "I probably know him--and
his game--better than anyone," says the dad. It will only add to
the tension that both Mikes are in precarious positions
professionally: Junior is trying to gain traction after a
disappointing rookie season in which he averaged only 5.7 points
and 2.6 rebounds after being taken third in the draft out of
Duke; Senior is the latest helmsman of the Clippers' constantly
wayward ship after being let go in May, 2001, by the Trail
Blazers. "It's going to be different from any other game," says
Dunleavy fils. "I do know that."

They'll meet for the first time on Nov. 18 in Oakland. "I know my
mom is going to be pulling for me," says Mike Jr. "At least I've
got her on my side." Responds Mike Sr., "I already told him, 'You
better work on your weaknesses.'"

So how do you coach against your flesh and blood? How do you
convince yourself that the small forward you're trying to shut
down is just another 6'9" shooter, not someone whose diapers you
changed? "It's going to be different, lots of mixed emotions, but
the bottom line is you play to win," says Mike Sr. "We're going
to scout him and prepare for him like we would anyone else." And
if his kid lights it up? "We'll probably switch defenders and
make him give it up," he says. "But just thinking about it, yeah,
it's going to be an interesting dynamic."

Dunleavy Sr. is so sensitive to the dynamic that he withdrew his
name for the Golden State job in 2002 immediately after the team
drafted his son. "With me coming in and him being a rookie, that
would have been a whole can of worms," says Mike Sr. "I'm sure
[management] felt the same way." On the other hand, in the likely
event that Mike Jr. becomes a more established player, his dad
would like nothing more than to be his coach. "That could be
terrific," says Mike Sr. "Obviously because he's my son, but also
because he's a heck of a team player. Every coach wants
that." --L. Jon Wertheim

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ERIC PALMO (DUNLEAVYS)

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