Bobcats looking to hire sixth coach since 2007

In what's becoming a near-annual rite of spring for the struggling franchise, the Bobcats began the process of replacing coach Mike Dunlap, who was fired Tuesday after one season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Bobcats are back in familiar territory — looking for a new head coach.

In what’s becoming a rite of spring for the struggling franchise, the Bobcats have begun the process of replacing coach Mike Dunlap, who was fired Tuesday after one season.

Charlotte’s next coach will be its sixth since 2007.

With that type of turnover and the team’s recent struggles — the Bobcats are 28-120 over the past two seasons — it might be difficult to find a quality coach to take on such a monumental task.

But Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins and GM Rich Cho insist there won’t be a shortage of interested candidates.

“Both our phones have been ringing off the hook,” Cho said this week. “I think it’s an appealing situation.”

Exactly who is on the Bobcats’ wish list is unclear at this point.

The team said it’s still compiling a list of potential candidates and no interviews have been scheduled.

While speculation is that the Bobcats might turn to a more experienced coach because of Dunlap’s struggles with adjusting from the college to the pro game, Cho said the team refused to be pigeonholed as they open the coaching search.

The Bobcats are certainly familiar with what’s out there.

They embarked on an extensive coaching search last summer after refusing to extend Paul Silas’ contract following a wretched 7-59 season in 2011-12.

Higgins and Cho interviewed no fewer than 10 candidates. A handful got second interviews, before settling on Dunlap.

Many of those who interviewed with the Bobcats last year are still looking for head coaching gigs this year, including owner Michael Jordan’s former Dream Team teammate Patrick Ewing, Brian Shaw, Mike Malone and Quin Snyder.

Oklahoma City assistant coach Mo Cheeks is another candidate the Bobcats considered interviewing last summer before the Thunder went all the way to the NBA finals and the Bobcats decided to go ahead and make a hire.

There are other familiar names out there as well, including Byron Scott and Stan Van Gundy.

The 67-year-old Phil Jackson, who teamed with Jordan to win six NBA titles in Chicago, has hinted about a return to the league but it seems highly unlikely he’d take over a massive rebuilding project like the Bobcats.

Of course, the Bobcats’ next coach could come from just about anywhere.

Dunlap, an assistant coach at St. John’s, was an off-the-radar type of hire last season by Jordan.

At the time Higgins said Dunlap had all of the characteristics they sought calling him “renowned in basketball circles as a teacher, developer of talent, communicator and collaborator. His energy and work ethic are endless, and we are excited to have him in charge of our team.”

But after only 10 months, the Bobcats came to realize they had made a mistake as he struggled in adapting to his dealings with professional players.

Dunlap admitted that he may have done too much talking at times, which doesn’t always sit well with NBA players.

“We knew when we hired Mike there were going to be some uncharted waters, so to speak,” Higgins said.

In the end, Cho said Dunlap “just wasn’t a good fit.”

This time around the Bobcats are looking for a coach with some similar qualities from those they wanted when they hired Dunlap last June.

“We want a great leader, (and) the player development aspect is still vitally important to us because of our youth,” Higgins said. “Obviously you want a fantastic X-and-O coach. Someone who can make our players better, and help us win games.”

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