Kevin Pelton has a fun read over at Basketball Prospectus that classifies NBA head coaches by their lineage, mentors, and influences. Pelton identifies some of the major luminaries who have spawned a coterie of current coaches, people like Dean Smith, Rick Pitino, and Pat Riley. Mike Dunleavy doesn’t fit squarely into any of the categories:
Mike Dunleavy – Del Harris. At South Carolina, Dunleavy played for Frank McGuire, giving him a connection to the Carolina tree (McGuire preceded Smith at North Carolina and influenced Smith’s use of per-possession statistics years before anyone else used them). However, his mentor in the NBA was Harris, first as a player in Houston and then as an assistant coach in Milwaukee. Harris is a follower of Don Nelson, but something got lost in the translation, as evidenced by Baron Davis’ difficulty going from playing for Nelson to playing for Dunleavy.
I’ve always loved the fact that South Carolina during the Frank McGuire era was a factory for Irish guys from the outer boroughs of New York — Bobby Cremins, Mike Dunleavy, Donnie Walsh, etc. It’s curious, though, that Dunleavy’s philosophy draws little inspiration from his teachers.
I had a chance to speak with a veteran NBA scout a few weeks back, and he told me that Mike Dunleavy’s system is the most finely structured in the league. He didn’t render any judgment on the value of Dunleavy’s regimen with the current Clippers roster [this was during the preseason], but said that the methodical nature of Dunleavy’s approach has always impressed him from a preparatory standpoint.
I’ve expressed my feelings on the Randolph acquisition, but as someone who enjoys observing the choreography of basketball, I’m eager to see if Dunleavy has the chutzpah to deploy that hulking, oversized lineup of BD-Thornton-Camby-Randolph-Kaman.
Question(s) of the Day: How would Camby-Randolph-Kaman match up against Peja-West-Chandler on Monday night? How about Camby-Randolph-Kaman against Carmelo-KMart-Nene? The most curious to me is next Saturday against a Miami front line of Marion-Beasley-Haslam. The problem there is that if you assign Camby to Marion, you effectively take Camby out of the middle where he’d be essential in deterring Dwyane Wade from penetrating. Incidentally, who takes Wade?
On the offensive end, the possibilities are fascinating. The most obvious strategy with a lineup that big would be to overload down low with some stack alignments. If you’re a craps player, think of it like this: If a Mike D’Antoni system amounts to playing the “Pass” or “Come Line,” a big Dunleavy scheme would be the equivalent of playing the “Don’t Pass” or “Don’t Come” line. It’s a spread offense turned on its head. You could actually run a double-stack with Kaman/Thornton and Randolph/Camby on either side. Thornton has the ability to pop out and drain a long-range shot; Camby and Randolph have some range; Kaman is a little more problematic because he generally needs a little more space to get and nail that 15-footer.
It’s intriguing stuff. I still don’t like the deal on a macro level, but if Dunleavy is serious about putting all those trees on the floor together, I’ll be one very entertained basketball dork.