George Karl believes Mike Dunlap the right fit for Bobcats

Nuggets coach praises Charlotte for hiring former Denver assistant
by Aaron Lopez

In George Karl’s eyes, the Charlotte Bobcats – in conjunction with the basketball gods – got this one right.

Instead than bowing to the pressure of making a splashy hire, the Bobcats have tabbed the well-respected Dunlap as their next head coach. Dunlap won two NCAA Division II national championships at Metro State and spent two years with Karl as a Denver Nuggets assistant from 2006-08.

“To hire a guy of knowledge and character and service more than spin and perception is something that makes me feel great,” Karl said Tuesday. “The basketball gods kind of rewarded the right stuff.”

In the four years since Dunlap left Denver, he and Karl have remained close. They frequently exchange book recommendations and inspirational quotes.

Dunlap has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and Karl described him as “probably the most intelligent guy I ever talk to about the game of basketball.” That’s high praise, considering Karl played for Dean Smith at North Carolina and just completed his 24th season as an NBA head coach.

“Mike provides insight that I’ve never had anybody deliver,” Karl said. “When you talk to him off the court, he could be Socrates. On the court, he’s an intense, competitive SOB.”

Nuggets player development coordinator Patrick Mutombo became familiar with Dunlap’s intensity and passion while playing for Metro State from 1999-2003. He remembers the 6 a.m. practices and the discipline that helped the Roadrunners win the NCAA Division II national title in 2000 and 2002.

“Coach Dunlap came and built upon what my father had already done in my life,” Mutombo said. “He ushered a lot of us into adulthood with his values of hard work and commitment and honesty. The things he preached to us back then, he still abides by those principles.”

After his successful run at Metro State, Dunlap joined the Nuggets coaching staff when Karl needed a replacement for assistant Scott Brooks, who left to take a job with the Sacramento Kings.

In Denver, Dunlap impressed Karl with his unique defensive philosophies and tireless work ethic. Karl believes those traits will translate well for a Charlotte franchise trying to build a foundation for the future.

“They have such a young team and they need to build a culture of professionalism and fundamentals,” Karl said. “I think you need a teacher as much as you need a strategist. I know Mike knows how to teach the culture and the fundamental foundation.”

As for the skeptics who question whether Dunlap is the right guy to help bring the Bobcats back to respectability, Karl requests a little faith.

“He’ll do everything they want him to do,” Karl said. “He’ll take the bullets, he’ll take the losses and he’ll build a good foundation and a good culture. It’s kind of a unique hire, but the karma of it says I think it can work.”