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In My Opinion

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Should Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap keep his job?

By Tom Sorensen
tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com
Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.

Three of the least effective words a columnist can write: I don’t know.

Should the Bobcats bring back first-year coach Mike Dunlap next season?

I don’t know.

There are people in the organization who consider him arrogant. He talks so much to his players during the game that it’s as if he gets paid by the word. Minutes are doled out as rewards. A player is in the lineup – Tyrus Thomas, Hakim Warrick – and then he goes to the end of the bench and is so far from the action he might as well be wearing a suit.

There also are people in the organization who consider Dunlap gracious and praise him for the manner in which he deals with employees who can’t possibly help his career. If so, that says something good about a man.

But it’s victories we care about, and the Bobcats have won 21 games. They are the first team to win three times as many games as they did the previous season (because players were locked out they played only 66 games last season).

Dunlap has to get some of the credit.

The Bobcats did not have access to Time Warner Cable Arena late last summer because the Democratic National Convention was in Charlotte.

You’d go to Johnson C. Smith. There was Dunlap working players, who were there voluntarily, hard.

You’d go to Providence Day and there was Dunlap working players. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot was reconstructed, broken down and built back up.

When the season ends some coaches hit the golf course or the beach.

Dunlap, who had been an assistant at St. John’s, and was a startling hire, hit the gym.

The Bobcats play their final game against Cleveland Wednesday. Long before tipoff I ask Dunlap if he’s a better coach now than when the season began, and why.

He laughs, a good laugh, real, and asks, “Do we have a half hour?”

Talk all the time you need.

Dunlap talks about learning to better use timeouts. He talks about getting to know officials, and not overreacting to calls, trying to set an example so his players won’t.

“Third is, people can see in this last month that we’re passing the ball,” says Dunlap. “We’re more of a ‘we’ team.”

He specifically credits relative newcomers Josh McRoberts, a forward who came to the Bobcats in a trade 26 games ago, and point guard Jannero Pargo, who was signed 18 games ago.

“Also (with) five new players, new coach, new coaching staff, just the reps, just the sheer reps, I think, have helped us a lot,” Dunlap says.

What disappoints him?

“I want more wins,” Dunlap says, and adds: “I never thought that we were going to blink our eyes and have 35 wins. I thought it was always going to be a slog. We’re slowly moving this thing around and again, what’s perspective? The worst team in the history of the NBA (last season), all right, so how you go from seven wins to, say, 40 wins, that’s tough to do.

“So I’m proud of the fact of what’s going on in the last month … A style of play that there’s a verve that the team’s playing with that’s undeniable. And to have that with the heaviness of the losses (is) kind of my proudest moment and the coaching staff’s proudest moment.”

Dunlap adds: “People see promise,” he says. “And they like our young guys.”

This season and next season are about promise and potential. The Bobcats weren’t going to be good this season. They didn’t have to be. They had to be better.

Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson have improved markedly, and the last few weeks Biyombo has looked like an NBA player and not a guy who could be.

When the Bobcats become competitive in 2014-15, they undoubtedly will hire a veteran coach.

Dunlap, then, is a temp. He was hired to be a temp. His assignment is to make the young talent better.

The six worst words a columnist can write: How about I pretend to know?

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