It took a few days, but Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen could finally announce what the rest of the world already knew: The Green Wave has hired Mike Dunleavy Sr. to take over its men’s basketball program.
“We could not be more excited to welcome Mike Dunleavy to the Green Wave family,” Dannen said Monday morning in a news release. “His reputation as a great evaluator of talent, master of strategy and teacher of the game define him today as one of the top basketball minds in the country at any level. His commitment to Tulane athletics is a game-changer for our program.”
Dunleavy will be formally introduced to the media and fans in a news conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Devlin Fieldhouse.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to coach the Green Wave and excited to help develop the student-athletes at Tulane into champions,” Dunleavy said in the school’s news release.
The private school does not release contract details and is not expected to introduce Dunleavy’s assistants at the news conference.
Dunleavy was an unlikely candidate at the onset of the search as Dannen sought to find a coach capable of pulling Tulane out of its more than 15-year funk both on the court and in the stands. The longtime NBA coach’s name is easily recognizable among fans but hadn’t circulated much in college basketball circles since he was fired as coach and general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2010.
In his 17 seasons as an NBA coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers and Clippers, Dunleavy built a reputation as a tactician who had the thickest playbook in the league and preferred to call plays rather than oversee a freelanced system.
It’s a combination that Dannen hopes will be a natural fit at the college level. And his notoriety already has helped gain attention in a variety of national publications.
“He just wants to get back into coaching,” Mike Dunleavy Jr., Dunleavy’s son and a Chicago Bulls forward, told the Chicago Tribune. “He loves to coach. He loves to be around the game. That opportunity presented itself, and he wanted to go with it. I'm sure there will be a learning curve, but he’s excited.”
The lingering question is whether Dunleavy can connect with college players. Former coach Ed Conroy struggled to keep his roster intact, falling victim to a routine churn of transfers and defections that is rampant across the country.
Tulane already has granted a release to promising power forward Dylan Osetkowski, but no other known defections were imminent before Dunleavy had an opportunity to meet with the team Monday.
Either way, it’s now Dunleavy’s task to bring Tulane out of its doldrums, with the program failing to reach the NCAA tournament since 1995 or the NIT since 2000. Along the way, he’ll have to compete with top-flight programs in the American Athletic Conference, which sent four teams to the NCAA tournament this season.
He’ll make his opening pitch Tuesday morning.
“Mike is one of the top basketball minds in the world,” Dannen tweeted Monday. “He’s a great teacher and evaluator of talent.”