Q&A with Mike Dunlap

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Q&A with Mike Dunlap

Mike Dunlap
Coach Mike Dunlap
LMU Men's Basketball

Mike Dunlap ’80 is in his second season as head coach of the LMU men’s basketball team. A native of Fairbanks, Alaska, he has been head coach of the NBA Charlotte Bobcats and the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian professional club. As a college assistant coach, he worked at Iowa, Arizona, USC and St. John’s. He won two national Division II titles as head coach of Metropolitan State University in Denver. He was interviewed by Joseph Wakelee-Lynch.

You are in the second year of a building process. What are the classic challenges facing any coach in his or her second year?
Your second year frequently is your first, because you’re putting things in place. Some players decide they don’t want play with the changed standards. So the challenge is to make sure you get the right people in the right seat on the bus.

What are the particular challenges that make that job unique here at LMU?
It’s a challenge to get kids to select your school who are high-end, talent-wise, because the image is, over time, of a program that has not lived up to billing. That’s the No. 1 challenge. The second is to make sure that once they get here they acclimate in an appropriate way to the university academically and that they plug in to all the institution has to offer.

As coach, you’re competing not only to win games on the court but in a recruiting battle as well. How do you describe the recruiting competition?
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Each coach has a system of some sort — call it a philosophy, a roadmap, a strategy. Is there anyone coaching today who is putting in place a system that is innovative?
Brad Stevens, who is now with the Boston Celtics, did some things with less when he was at Butler University that I thought were tremendous. Bob McKillop, at Davidson College, is another. They take the basics and tweak them. In basketball terms, they’re letting their players play in what’s called a “flow” offense. The offensive players understand the offense’s concept and make choices within it while they’re on the court. For example, in the pick-and-roll, a play has come in offensively during the past five to 10 years, they spread the floor and let their players create and make sure all the other players are spaced on the court and ready to shoot or drive. They tell the player with the ball to be ready to attack. That is very creative, innovative and free-flowing, thus the name “flow” offense. They’re giving more autonomy to the player.

Defensively, they teach the basics and try to protect players who may not be great athletes by doing things like switching on defense while letting the players make those calls as they happen on the court. They empower the players by letting them make those decisions.

Fans come to games to support their team and enjoy wins. But they also want to be entertained. What will LMU fans find entertaining about their team this year?
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The LMU women’s soccer team made it to the NCAA tournament. They won their first two games and have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. What lesson do you draw from that?
There are always lessons, whether you’re talking about our baseball team, which has a culture of winning, or women’s soccer, track or water polo. If you look at what the women’s team has done from one year to the next, you see that if you stay the course and remain optimistic about your chances, you can do some remarkable things. The women’s soccer team represents that. I see their coaches at work every Sunday morning. They are relentless in their work ethic, and they have a vision of what they want to do. When I see the women’s soccer team, I think all things are possible.

Follow Coach Dunlap @CoachMikeDunlap.