Commentary

Mission Statement

Clippers' harsh release announcing Dunleavy's departure was to comfort unhappy fans

Updated: March 9, 2010, 11:14 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

I've seen a lot of press releases in my career. What the Clippers sent late Tuesday afternoon -- a sharp-tongued, 230-word document titled "CLIPPERS, DUNLEAVY SEVER TIES" -- was not a press release. It was a mission statement and something of an apology to season-ticket holders who paid good money to watch one of the most frustrating teams in the NBA the past couple of seasons.

Trust me, team president Andy Roeser saw each of those "Fire Dunleavy" signs floating around Staples Center as the team won 19 games last season and stumbled through this one.

Although the powers that be had good intentions, allowing Mike Dunleavy to step down as coach and keep his job as general manager on Feb. 4 wasn't enough of a bloodletting.

When a fan base is as frustrated as Clipper Nation has become, someone's head has to roll.

Just look at the way the Clippers phrased things in the "release":

The team has simply not made sufficient progress during Dunleavys seven-year tenure. The Clippers want to win now.

That sounds like something you'd read in a very poor employee evaluation, not the official public announcement that the former head coach and current general manager has been fired.

Not quite on Al Davis' level of angry press releases, but angry enough that Al might at least get a kick out of the effort the Clippers made to kick Dunleavy in the butt on his way out the door.

Generally, even in the worst professional breakup, people pretend to like each other. They use phrases like "go in a different direction" and "We thank Coach So-and-so for his efforts and commitment to the franchise."

In this case, the Clippers wanted it known that this was not a clean break.

Who was the target audience for that message?

Mainly the long-suffering season-ticket holders who've been clamoring for someone's -- anyone's -- head to go on the block for the underachieving mess the team has become.

But also the talented group of free agents who hit the open market on July 1 who just might be thinking of taking up all the salary-cap space the Clippers so efficiently cleared right before the trade deadline.

Dunleavy got a lot of credit for those moves, but the Clippers made sure, in "the release," that everyone now knows how important then assistant general manager Neil Olshey was in those deals.

To quote directly from the Clippers:

Olshey has played an important role in the completion of several significant team transactions, including the deals which brought Marcus Camby, Craig Smith, Rasual Butler, Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, and Drew Gooden to the Clippers, among others. He also played a integral part in administering all preparation for the Clippers last four NBA Drafts, which produced Al Thornton, Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, and last years #1 overall pick, Blake Griffin.

All of that is very true. As assistant general managers go, Olshey is one of the best in the business.

One source close to the organization called him, "the glue guy."

When Dunleavy held the dual role as coach and GM, Olshey pretty much acted as the general manager on a day-to-day level. Dunleavy was always at the conceptual, big-picture level, and he admitted as much every time someone asked whether holding both roles was too much for him.

Empowering Olshey as the GM won't rattle too many cages in Playa Vista. What the move tells you is how far Dunleavy had fallen out of favor in the owners' suite, which is where Tuesday's decision was made.

There are some who might speculate that this was a power play by the affable and very capable Olshey, long regarded as Dunleavy's protege, but that's not true. Not even close.

No, this came straight from Donald T.

It wasn't a press release. It was a mission statement.