After firing head coach Mike Dunlap Tuesday, the Charlotte Bobcats are beginning the process to hire their sixth head coach in ten seasons. Since becoming the head of basketball operations in 2006, three head coaches have been axed after one season under Michael Jordan.
Bernie Bickerstaff, the first head coach Bobcats history, lasted two seasons prior to Jordan’s arrival. Bickerstaff was fired in 2007 after compiling a 77-169 record in three seasons.
Jordan replaced him with former Dallas Mavericks assistant Sam Vincent in 2007. Vincent was a skeptical hire due to his inexperience, but Jordan and Vincent were said to have had a strong relationship.
Despite having a roster that featured a prime Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor, Vincent finished with a 32-50 record and was canned following the season. Jordan said the firing was to do “what is in the best interest of our team,” which seemingly confirmed Vincent’s poor relationship with the players.
Larry Brown became the third head coach of the Bobcats in 2008. Under Brown, the Bobcats made the franchise’s first playoff appearance in 2010. The next season Brown wore out his welcome. He was visibly frustrated with the team, publicly criticized players and was let go after a 9-19 start.
Paul Silas, an assistant on Brown’s staff, was made the interim coach the same season. Silas restored faith on the team and the Bobcats finished the season 25-29 under him. Silas’ interim tag was removed in 2011 and he was the head coach of the infamous 7-59 Bobcats. Predictably, Silas was fired at the end of the season.
Dunlap, the least-qualified of the coaches interviewed last summer, replaced Silas in 2012. He never had a clue. He didn’t know the NBA and the Bobcats retained their title as the league’s punching bag.
Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl said whenever the Bobcats got “cracked in the face” they gave up on the game. They seldomly, if ever, looked like they were on the same page. Body language remained poor, defensive effort was non-existent, and communication lacked.
Dunlap was a bad hire. Apparent by the inexpensive two-year contract he signed, Dunlap was never in plans to be the long-term head coach. He was brought in to help develop the young talent on the team and bounce.
More apparent is that the Bobcats can’t get by with a third-consecutive lame-duck hire. The next hire needs to be someone who can be seen as a long-term fix for the franchise. More so, the Bobcats need a coach who has a presence on the sidelines and can get through to players.
The Bobcats will have a top-5 pick in this year’s draft. It’s possible the Bobcats could have as many as three first round draft choices in 2014. They will have at least $21 million in cap space this summer, which could be advantageous in a trade, claiming a quality player through the amnesty wire, or in free agency.
None of that means much if the Bobcats can’t prove to be a credible destination for players. Currently, they aren’t.
A great head coach can be a face-lift for a franchise’s image. The league-wide perception of the Bobcats hasn’t moved the needle from the league’s basement. So far all the Bobcats have proven is that a head coach is better off renting an apartment than wasting time with a house.
Combined with underwhelming draft picks, questionable trades and small attendance numbers, the Bobcats have shown little progress in remodeling their culture.
This offseason it starts with finally hiring a real NBA head coach.