Mike Dunleavy has been fired as Clippers GM just a few weeks after he "voluntarily" stepped down as coach. The Clippers issued an unusually pointed press release, writing:
"The team has simply not made sufficient progress during Dunleavy's seven-year tenure," the statement said. "The Clippers want to win now. This transition, in conjunction with a full commitment to dedicate unlimited resources, is designed to accomplish that objective."
The timing of this is interesting, as it seems the Clippers just wanted Dunleavy to get the team through the trade deadline, when they made several cap clearing trades. But regardless, it was fairly obvious that Dunleavy wouldn't last in this position for long. Kim Hughes wasn't a miracle worker as a head coach, and Dunleavy would have been in an awkward position as a GM making $5.5 million and needing to hire a coach while at odds with his owner. Dunleavy's strained relationship with Donald Sterling has been well-publicized.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Mike Dunleavy is a good basketball coach. He's had some success in the past, and the Clippers played well at times in his tenure. But aside from an annual slew of injuries, Dunleavy's message seemed to wear thin on his players and his style of play didn't suit his personnel.
I would argue that Dunleavy has left the Clippers in much better shape than when he inherited the team seven years ago. They have an excellent nucleus with Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Baron Davis, and Chris Kaman, and they have a ton of cap space to add to it next season.
So what's next for the Clippers? I'll get the fun rumors out of the way first. According to several reports, Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown contacted Donald Sterling about becoming the team's head coach and GM. Brown owns a home in Malibu, his wife reportedly would love to return to LA, and he gave the Clippers their best two-year run in franchise history back in 1992-93. Brown's LA ties also include a short stint at UCLA, when he coached the Bruins to the NCAA National Title Game back in 1980. He's famous for frequently changing jobs, and if he suddenly left Charlotte, then no one would really be surprised.
To add more fun to the rumor, Lebron James has said in the past that he would love to play for Larry Brown. The Clippers have enough cap space to sign Lebron, but really they could entice any elite free agent by giving him the opportunity to recommend a coach.
Still, all of this is a bit far-fetched. Brown's overtures were reportedly made when it was believed that George Postolos would buy the Bobcats and hire a new coach. Instead, Michael Jordan wound up taking complete control of the team, and he had initially brought in Brown based on their University of North Carolina connection. Jordan has been famous for being an absentee executive in Charlotte, and Brown can't be too happy with "His Airness'" management style. But Brown has also said that he came to Charlotte for Jordan, and seems unlikely to abandon him. Although, you never really know with Larry Brown.
Personally, if I was running the Clippers, then I would go for a different type of executive altogether. There are several NBA GMs who have had success by incorporating statistical and computer analysis into their player evaluations. Daryl Morey of Houston and Sam Presti of Oklahoma City are just two of these "Money-basketball" GMs. Making a PR statement with a big name is nice, but hiring a smart, savvy, and innovative general manager might be what the Clippers need to differentiate themselves from the Lakers and other teams in the NBA. I'd recommend the Clippers bring in such an executive... someone who looks at the game differently from most NBA executives and can quietly build a deep roster of talented and efficient players. It's fun to think about the Clippers getting Lebron James or Dwayne Wade, but it's also excessively hopeful. They just can't count on it, and they really need a thorough alternate plan.
The Clippers should then let their new smart GM hire a head coach whom he can work with. It's easy to hire a retread head coach who has bounced around to a few different teams. But there's nothing wrong with an unknown like Scott Brooks who is a Coach of the Year candidate in Oklahoma City.
I know Clippers fans are tired of losing, and they probably want to see an overt commitment to winning by having the team go out and hire the biggest name possible. But the problem with that strategy is that the Clippers have such a horrible history that they will seldom be anyone's first choice. They'd be well-advised to try a different approach and look to innovative statistical methods to find the right mix of players who can take them to the next level.
Oh, and for an added boost, I'd consider hiring Bill Simmons as an Assistant GM, both for the publicity and to see if he's good as he says he is. He does have a great basketball aptitude, but he could probably use some management experience. I also think the Clippers should change their logo, colors, and uniforms, but that's a topic for another day.