Dunleavy out as GM of Clippers
LOS ANGELES -- Mike Dunleavy still doesn't know exactly what happened. Tuesday afternoon he got a haircut, packed for a scouting trip to the ACC tournament, then went out to a local golf course for a couple hours.
Unbeknownst to him, and still unexplained to him as of late Tuesday night, during that time he was being fired as general manager of the Clippers.
"I come back to my locker around 7 p.m. and there's a million messages on my phone," Dunleavy said, when reached by ESPNLosAngeles.com late Tuesday night.
"This guy comes up to me and said, 'What's going on? They just said on TV that the Clippers severed ties with you?'
"I had no idea what they were talking about. I'm like, 'Wow. I haven't even talked to the Clippers.'"
Barely a month after Dunleavy relinquished his head coaching duties to focus solely on being general manager, the team announced his departure in an e-mailed statement. Assistant general manager Neil Olshey will take over Dunleavy's job.
"The team has simply not made sufficient progress during Dunleavy's seven-year tenure," the statement said. "The Clippers want to win now. This transition, in conjunction with a full commitment to dedicate unlimited resources, is designed to accomplish that objective."
Dunleavy said he left a message with Clippers owner Donald Sterling, thanking him for the opportunity to work with the franchise the last seven years, but he has not heard back from the owner.
"I left a message saying, 'I have no idea what caused this. I'm disappointed I don't get to finish the job, but I want to thank you for the opportunity you've given me,'" Dunleavy said. "I had a great time in L.A."
After the Clippers lost 113-87 in Orlando on Tuesday night, they are 12th in the Western Conference standings with a 25-39 record.
Players were notified of the decision during interim coach Kim Hughes' postgame speech.
"At this point, nothing surprises me," point guard Baron Davis said. "We're moving in a different direction. We've been on the road, so there's not much that we know. You all found out before we did."
Dunleavy stepped down as coach Feb. 4. He was replaced by Hughes, then an assistant.
"I thought Mike was going to focus on being the GM and that's what I thought was going to be the course of event. I'm a little bit shocked it occurred," Hughes said. "I'm certainly disappointed for Mike."
The decision came as a total shock to Dunleavy, he said, because he'd had dinner with Sterling earlier this week.
"We'd talked about what I'd seen on my scouting trips, about free agency," Dunleavy said. "I'd told him some of my ideas on how we should handle free agency and he says to me, 'That's smart, that's a good idea, I like that.'"
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said after Tuesday's game that he always respected Dunleavy as a coach and thought it was unfair to pin the blame solely on Dunleavy given the Clippers' losing history.
"It's just hard to comment on anything another organization does because you don't know why or how, and multiply that about 10 with the Clippers," Van Gundy said, drawing laughs.
"No knock on Kim or anybody else, but they haven't exactly taken off since the coaching change," Van Gundy added.
Olshey had been serving as assistant GM since before the 2008-09 season. Previously, he was director of player development, assistant coach and director of player personnel.
The team said he played an important role in several transactions, including deals that brought Marcus Camby, Rasual Butler, Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw and Drew Gooden to the Clippers. Olshey also was part of the planning for the team's last four NBA drafts, including obtaining Blake Griffin as the No. 1 overall pick last season.
Griffin has missed this season because of injury.
The move comes with the Clippers having significant salary cap space in hopes of luring a top free agent this summer, an effort center Chris Kaman applauded.
"I think that whoever's decision it was to get rid of all that money, they did a good job doing it," Kaman said. "They left a lot of space for next year and can go after a big-time player. That was kind of the goal."
In 6½ seasons as coach, Dunleavy was 215-325, and Los Angeles made the playoffs just once in his first six seasons, getting within one game of the Western Conference finals in 2006. The Clippers haven't been back to the playoffs since, winning just 42 games in the past two seasons.
Still, after talking to Sterling, Dunleavy felt like he was on pretty solid ground with the franchise.
As for whether he was disappointed or angry by the way his departure was handled, Dunleavy said he'd rather not comment.
"I think people will look at the franchise now, with where we are and what we accomplished before the trading deadline, and know I left it in the best position it's been in for a while," he said.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.