The Charlotte Bobcats selected a pretty solid coach, according to nearly all accounts, when they decided Monday night to tab St. John's Red Storm assistant Mike Dunlap as the next man to run their team. The problem in Charlotte wasn't the final decision, however, but the process that ended with Dunlap receiving the honor of coaching the NBA's worst team next season.
Bobcats owner Michael Jordan and his crew ended up interviewing 10 coaches from various areas of the coaching ladder to replace Paul Silas and, for the most part, Charlotte seemed to be looking in the right spots. The men they interviewed weren't the name-brand coaches recycled time and time again, but younger guys that have yet to be given an opportunity to show what they're able to do on the big stage.
Yours truly once even went out on a limb with the following (non-joke) Tweet:
Pretty much all 10 coaches the Bobcats have interviewed would have been better for the Clippers than Vinny again.— Scott Schroeder (@ScottSchroeder) May 29, 2012
Yep, by all indications the Bobcats seemed like they'd have a hard time screwing up their coaching search.
And then, out of nowhere, they did just that. The Bobcats showed why they're the Bobcats.
After interviewing a total of 10 coaches -- ranging from Dunlap to up-and-coming Memphis Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger to Orlando Magic big man coach Patrick Ewing to veteran coach and Charlotte native Nate McMillan -- the Bobcats narrowed their list to three finalists: Jerry Sloan, Brian Shaw and Quin Snyder. It seemed at the time like Sloan and Shaw were the favorites while Snyder's name was thrown in there for reasons otherwise unknown and, following Monday night's decision, that indeed was seems to have been the the case.
The first domino to fall, eventually creating the mess, happened in the middle of last week when Sloan decided to take himself out of contention. The longtime head coach of the Utah Jazz didn't give much insight into his reasoning behind the decision, but he told Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick that he didn't "want to comment on it because it's never profitable for anybody. It just makes it sound like you're making a statement about someone. But they were wonderful and there were no problems. I just took myself out."
It seemed peculiar that Sloan would decide to remove himself from the search, but he's earned the right over the course of his career to change his mind as he sees fit. After all, the Bobcats job doesn't exactly seem like it would be the top option for someone who spent a large majority of his career coaching John Stockton and Karl Malone.
The three finalists the Bobcats were considering had now narrowed themselves to two, featuring a former NBA player with solid experience under Phil Jackson versus a coach who dealt with some controversy in the college ranks but had an otherwise solid résumé.
Even still, the majority of NBA insiders thought almost unanimously that the job would end up going to Shaw following the removal of Sloan from the convoluted coaching search.
A funny thing happened, however, when Shaw's name was also removed from the search on Monday evening. The specifics are currently up in the air on why his name was taken out of the hat, but there's quite a bit of speculation that Shaw was hoping to keep his options open for more attractive head jobs with either the Orlando Magic or possibly the Portland Trail Blazers (if their job ends up opening).
This left only Snyder's name from the three finalists that the Bobcats had named the week prior.
Snyder's one of the more well-educated coaches, having earned his masters and PhD from Duke while learning under Mike Krzyzewski before going on to a career that saw him have success (before the controversy) as a head coach at Missouri. Coach Q would eventually make stops as an NBA assistant under Larry Brown, Doug Collins and a three-year stint inside the highly-successful San Antonio Spurs organization as the head coach of the D-League's Austin Toros before becoming an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers this past season.
Those accolades -- and his great grasp of the intricacies of NBA offenses -- apparently weren't enough to impress the Bobcats, however, so they decided to dig back into their pool of candidates and hire Dunlap.
Dunlap's résumé is nothing to sneeze at, but he has less experience at the pro level and less head coaching experience at the college level than Snyder does. When looking at the tale of the tape between his coaching experience and that of Snyder's, it isn't hard to see why the Bobcats decided to include Snyder as a finalist when they narrowed their search to three coaches.
It seems Snyder was more of a courtesy invite, though -- and therefore a disservice to all involved when the Bobcats decided they would go back to their pool of candidates when it became clear they weren't going to have Shaw or Sloan pacing the sidelines next season.
There are plenty of reasons why it maybe didn't work out in Charlotte for Snyder, but colleague Bomani Jones probably summed it up quite well on Twitter shortly after news had broke.
hey, i understand ppl hadn't heard of this mike dunlap, but you HAD heard of quin snyder. and that woulda been bad news.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) June 19, 2012
It unfortunately takes way too long to get a clean slate once one is labeled as a problem. Snyder's stint at Mizzou ended in 2006 and has, by nearly all accounts including my own, drastically turned his life around with the humbling experience as head coach of the Austin Toros and then re-proving himself with a low-level assistantship in Philadelphia before making his way back to the bench this year with the Lakers.
The majority of the public still dwells on the past, however -- and a very specific time period of the past, ignoring his time with Duke and fast-forwarding straight to Mizzou -- and that's what made Snyder too difficult a decision when it came to the rebuilding Bobcats and the contentious relationship they've already got with their fanbase. Snyder made sense to have as a finalist when looking at his credentials alone, but the Bobcats never intended to have to actually put him on their bench.
The previous 1,000 words aren't to say that Dunlap doesn't deserve the opportunity he's been given -- in fact, I would love to see him excel -- just that the convoluted coaching search the 'Cats led showed exactly why they ended last season with the worst record in the history of the NBA. They seem to want to do things the right way, but they simply can't get out of their own way to make things happen as they should.