MIKE DUNLAP INSTILLS NEW COMMUNICATION
This looked and sounded military:
A single water break in two hours of strenuous exercise. Speak only when spoken to. Eye contact with the instructor isn’t optional. Expect to be critiqued, and always be ready with an answer for why you did what you did.
This wasn’t Marine boot camp. It was the first day of summer league practice in Mike Dunlap’s tenure as Charlotte Bobcats coach. You knew something was different from former Bobcats coach Paul Silas’ laid-back approach when Dunlap called a dozen players into a circle, yelling “eyes up!” to demand rapt attention.
It’s easy to intimidate the eight or so free agents just hoping for an invitation to training camp in October. But Dunlap had the same attention from the four Bobcats under contract. They see a guy intent on helping them get better. The criticism is balanced with encouragement.
“I think right now he’s tearing us down and then building us back up to what he wants us to be,” said forward-center Byron Mullens, entering his fourth NBA season.
“What I love about him is he stays on me. If he sees me slacking – even if I don’t know I’m slacking – he’ll stop play and let you know in front of everybody. But before he gets done talking, he’ll say, ‘Good job.’ ”
Dunlap is similar to former Bobcats coach Larry Brown but without so much edge. Like Brown, Dunlap is intricate about every facet of basketball: He’ll tell a player to lift his chin 4 inches while shooting, to be more focused on the rim. He’ll correct a player for standing just inside the 3-point line while shooting, rather than step back for maximum effect. He’ll question what’s the point of setting a screen for a shooter if that shooter is reluctant to shoot.
But here’s where the similarities end: Brown’s perfectionism bled into exasperation and then negativity. Dunlap is demanding without being so abrasive.
“I just like his attitude, the way he talks to us,” said point guard Kemba Walker. “He’s a fun guy to be around, even when he’s getting on us.”
We’re going to get the ball down, instead of like last year when we got into our offense with 10 to 12 seconds left on the (shot) clock,” Mullens said. “Now we’re into our offense with 20 to 18 seconds left. It’s going to be fast-paced, so you better be in shape.”
Dunlap hasn’t been a head coach since 2006, when he left Division II Metro State in Denver to be a Nuggets assistant. But he doesn’t lack conviction about who he is or how he’ll function overseeing the Bobcats.
“Detail is all I know. …I like simplicity with detail,” Dunlap concluded.
“We won’t have a thick playbook. Offensively, first-and-foremost, is the pass. I believe in the pass. That’s a trademark to be developed over time.
“Defensively, I love ball pressure. We’ve got to do it the right way, so we’re not fouling all the time, but people should say, ‘They really get after it.’ ”