St. John’s assistant coach Mike Dunlap was selected on Monday as the fifth head coach of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. Dunlap, who was an assistant coach for George Karl’s Denver Nuggets from 2006-08 and was a two-time national championship head coach at NCAA Division II Metro State in Denver, Colo. (1997-06), between assistant coaching stops at Arizona (2008-09), Oregon (2009-10) and St. John’s (2010-12), is believed to be the first NCAA Division I assistant coach to make the leap to NBA head coach.
“The Johnnies basketball family is ecstatic for Coach Dunlap’s opportunity. Mike’s selection as the Charlotte Bobcats’ head coach is a well-deserved honor. To make the unprecedented jump from college assistant to NBA head coach is testament to both Mike’s abilities as a teacher and our basketball program’s marked improvement over the past 27 months,” said St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin. “Naturally after a 25 year association at the highest levels of college basketball I have short list of elite coaching candidates and will now begin the process of replacing Coach Dunlap. With our back to back stellar recruiting classes now in place we have the luxury of being able to move forward in a deliberate manner to find the best fit for our program.”
Lavin’s elite and formidable basketball staff was anchored by veteran mentor Dunlap, who has built a reputation as one of professional and college basketball’s leading strategists and on-court instructors. With assistant coach Rico Hines and Special Assistant/Advisor Gene Keady, Dunlap is one of three St. John’s basketball staff members with NBA coaching experience.
As part of Lavin’s staff, Dunlap, Hines and assistant coach Tony Chiles helped the Johnnies return to the NCAA Tournament for the 27th time in program history in 2011 - and for the first time following a nine-year hiatus. In addition, St. John’s catapulted back into the national rankings for the first time in 10 seasons, climbing as high as No. 15 in the country.
The 2011-12 season saw Dunlap take on an amplified role as Lavin recovered from prostate cancer surgery. The men’s basketball squad and its “Fresh Five” all-rookie starting lineup posted six BIG EAST victories and closed out the season with home wins over UCLA, DePaul and No. 20/18 Notre Dame. Freshman Moe Harkless was named the 2011-12 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and now looks to become a NBA lottery pick on June 28, while BIG EAST All-Rookie teammate D’Angelo Harrison set a new all-time freshman scoring record with 544 points.
Dunlap, 54, joined the St. John’s basketball family in 2010-11 after serving as the associate head coach on Pac-10 staffs during the previous two seasons. Arizona went 21-14 in 2008-09, advancing to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 before ending the season with a loss to top-seeded Louisville in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinal game. Dunlap joined Oregon’s staff in 2009-10, with the Ducks posting a 16-16 record.
Prior to his appointments at Arizona and Oregon, Dunlap spent two seasons in the NBA, working for the Denver Nuggets under Karl. The Nuggets compiled a 95-69 (.579) record during his tenure and made two playoff appearances, including a 50-win season for the 2007-08 Denver squad, a first for the organization in 23 seasons.
Before his time in the NBA, Dunlap was a two-time NCAA Division II national championship mentor (2000 and 2002) and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II Coach of the Year (2000 and 2002) at Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colo., leading the Roadrunners to nine NCAA Tournament appearances in each of his nine seasons as head coach (1997-2006). Dunlap posted a 248-50 (.832) record en route to three NCAA Division II title game appearances, three North Central Regional championships, five Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) titles, two RMAC Coach of the Year awards and in the process, became Metro State’s all-time winningest coach.
Prior to his tenure at Metro State, Dunlap served three seasons as the head coach of the Adelaide 36ers, a professional basketball team in Australia. The 36ers posted a 59-33 (.641) record during his tenure and advanced to the National Basketball League Final Four in 1995 and 1996 after appearing in the Grand Final in 1994.