The Trail Blazers made it official on Tuesday, but the firing of head coach Mike Dunleavy was done long before this week.
In simple terms, Dunleavy would have probably been fired even if the Blazers made it out of the first round. The goal was simple for this team at the start of the season: nothing less than a championship. Anything less would be a failure with such a talented team. Dunleavy didn’t get it done. The Blazers failed to win a single game in the playoffs. The firing seems worthy now, right?
Sounds way too simple, but it’s the truth. It was clear from the body language on this team – and there was body language – that Dunleavy had no control over his players. They seemed disinterested in anything he had to say. His constant play calling and lack of trust in the veterans also didn’t go over well with the players.
Talk all you want about the number of wins Dunleavy compiled in his four-year stint. This had nothing to do with wins. This had everything to do with losses. Key losses at the worst times. That is what people will remember more than anything.
The game seven loss to the Lakers. The four-game sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in the lockout season. The blowups with Rasheed Wallace, Scottie Pippen, JR Rider and Jimmy Jackson. The dislike for Kenny Anderson.
Dunleavy wasn’t a great fit for this team:
The offense was stagnant, the defense was soft. You knew what play they were running before they called it. Movement was at a bare minimum and opposing defenses began to catch on.
Defensively, I’ve never seen a team give up more layups and wide-open jumpers than this team did. They would double team on a guy who didn’t need to be doubled. They would leave good shooters wide open and force the outside shot to beat them.
The relationship with Wallace:
When a coach and his best player can’t get along, one has to go. It was clear that Dunleavy and Wallace didn’t get along.
Way back in the Western Conference Finals two years ago, Dunleavy and Wallace exchanged words while the Spurs were dismantling the Blazers. Since that exchange, the relationship was a rocky one. Dunleavy questioned Wallace’s behavior; Wallace questioned anything and everything else.
The absence of Greg Anthony:
The Blazers’ best on-the-ball defender didn’t get off the bench much at all during the 22-game collapse at the end of season. Rod Strickland seemed lost on both offense and defense on a lot of occasions, yet he got the playing time as the backup point guard.
Business is business:
A lot of people will blame Bob Whitsitt for the Blazers collapse this season. He even said himself that he was to blame for a lot of what happened. But the NBA is a business, and in a business you strive to be the best you can be.
Portland fell way short of that this season and in a league where players don’t get fired, the coach has to go. It has always been this way and it will always be this way. Dunleavy lost control of his team, and business went bad. I guess you could say now, he’ll be minding his own business for the time being.