Donald T. Sterling opened up to T.J. Simers in this morning’s edition of the Los Angeles Times. The long and short of it is that the Clippers owner isn’t happy and is willing to lay a good share of the blame at the feet of Mike Dunleavy and Elgin Baylor.
Sterling said he expects more from his coach. “That's why I'm paying [Dunleavy] the money I am," he said. "I want to see him win. I don't want to tell him how to do it. I'm just interested in the conclusion. My whole philosophy is hire the best people and let them do their jobs.
"There is no alternative, you have to rely on them, and if it doesn't work out, either you're patient or make changes, right?"
The most intriguing bit from the piece, though, is Dunleavy’s response:
Dunleavy, asked about the owner's frustration, said, "I'm very frustrated too. But I'm also frustrated with the organization. I saw this coming, but had two deals out there that they didn't want to do. It contributed to where we are now." [emphasis added]
Dunleavy is basically saying that Sterling and/or Baylor wouldn’t sign off on a couple of trades and/or free agent acquisitions – deals Dunleavy felt were crucial to making the team competitive on a nightly basis. It’s safe to assume that one of the two in question was the unloading of Corey Maggette. I can’t even begin to speculate on the other deal.
It’s well-known that Sterling has a paternal affinity for Maggette, the longest tenured Clip. And, sure enough, Simers reports that Sterling feels “Maggette would be a better player with ‘aggressive coaching,’” This sentiment places Sterling squarely in the category of “Corey Maggette partisan.”
What Sterling characterizes as “aggressive coaching” sounds a lot like a euphemism for “better coaching,” but DTS is more politic than that. My problem here with Sterling’s logic isn’t that he’s wrong about Maggette [though he is], or wrong about Dunleavy [maybe, maybe not]. It’s that Sterling had over three seasons to gauge Dunleavy’s capacity to coach Corey Maggette and countless other NBA players before the Clippers offered him a 4 year/$22M extension.
If you’re an NBA owner, it’s one thing to hire a guy and not renew him if you feel that he’s not up to the job of rebuilding your franchise. But it’s quite another to watch him coach your pet for 3+ seasons -- during which this player plateaued as a solid 2nd/3rd scoring option with limited ancillary and defensive skills – then pay that coach a fortune anyway. What about the Maggette-Dunleavy chemistry is any different today than it was in 2004?
Whether the Clippers have underachieved this season given the injuries, or Maggette has underachieved because of passive coaching -- or even whether Mike Dunleavy should be coaching the team at all -- is up for debate. But whether Sterling had ample opportunity to judge Mike Dunleavy's performance as a coach prior to re-upping him for an exorbitant amount isn't.