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Dunleavy leaves Clippers' sideline, stays on as GM

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Feb 4 2010 6:56PM - Updated Feb 4 2010 9:35PM

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Mike Dunleavy is stepping down from that position with the team, but will remain on as general manager.

Assistant coach Kim Hughes will take over as head coach on an interim basis.

"I've come to the conclusion that this is the ideal time for me to direct my efforts toward the many personnel opportunities that lie before us, such as the trade market, the draft and the free agent process," Dunleavy said in a statement. "We fully expect to be active and productive on all those fronts."

Dunleavy had been rumored to be on the coaching hot seat in early December, when the Clippers stumbled out of the gate. But the team righted itself and he was able to hang on for another month. However, losses to the Timberwolves and the Nets last week -- which was just New Jersey's fourth win of the season -- on a key eastern road swing brought Dunleavy back to the brink.

"It just seems clear that the team needs a fresh voice, and we hope that our players will respond in a positive way," Clippers president Andy Roeser said. "As we approach the trade deadline, the NBA draft and the upcoming free agent period, our team is very well-positioned from a salary cap standpoint. Mike's experienced input will be vitally important as we continue to develop our young talented nucleus and shape our team's future."

Dunleavy has a career coaching record of 613-716 in 15-plus seasons on the bench with the Lakers, Bucks, Trail Blazers and Clippers. In his first season in Los Angeles the Lakers went to the NBA Finals before losing in five games to the Bulls. He left the Lakers after the 1991-92 season to take the head coach and VP of basketball operations job in Milwaukee, but failed to reach the playoffs in four seasons there before going to Portland.

He was named Coach of the Year in the lockout season of 1999, leading the Blazers to a 35-15 regular season record and reaching the Western Conference finals before losing to San Antonio.

The following season, Portland became a juggernaut, with Scottie Pippen, Arvydas Sabonis and Rasheed Wallace forming a devastating frontcourt. The Blazers went 59-23 and made the Western Conference finals again, this time against the Lakers. After falling down 3-1 to Los Angeles, Portland roared back and tied the series, and led by 15 points in the third quarter of the deciding seventh game in L.A.

But behind Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers roared back and won 89-84, and went on to win the first of their three straight NBA titles.

Dunleavy was fired by the Blazers after the 2000-01 season, but came to the Clippers in 2003 and led the perennial sad-sack franchise to its best showing in three decades. In 2005-06, behind power forward Elton Brand and guard Sam Cassell, the Clippers won 47 games and won their first playoff series since 1975, defeating Denver in five games in the first round. Los Angeles lost a thrilling seven-game series to the Suns in the second round.

But the Clippers never made the postseason again under Dunleavy. Brand left following the 2007-08 season for a lucrative free agent deal with the 76ers; Dunleavy claimed afterward that Brand had broken a personal commitment to him to return to the Clippers. Injuries to other key players also hurt the team badly. And Dunleavy had numerous run-ins last season with Baron Davis, the free agent guard who'd come to the Clippers after thinking he'd be playing with Brand. Davis and Dunleavy never saw eye-to-eye last season on the guard's role, and when center Chris Kaman also missed significant time with injuries, the Clippers plummeted to a 19-63 record.

The silver lining in that horrible season was that the team won the NBA lottery and selected Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin with the first pick in last June's draft. But Griffin never played a regular season minute for the Clippers, injuring his left knee in the preseason. After missing the first half of the season, Griffin underwent arthroscopic surgery last month and will miss the rest of the season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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