Mike Dunleavy will return as Tulane men’s basketball coach next season.
Reiterating what he first told WGNO sports director Ed Daniels on Tuesday night, athletic director Troy Dannen expressed optimism about the future of the program despite the Green Wave’s struggles in Dunleavy’s third season. Tulane (4-18, 0-10 American Athletic Conference) has lost 12 in a row entering Thursday’s home game against Tulsa.
“We are committed to Mike Dunleavy as our men’s basketball coach,” Dannen said. “There’s no question that this has been a difficult year, but I remain confident about the long-term direction of our program. Our players are competing and playing extremely hard and I firmly believe that is a direct reflection of Coach Dunleavy’s leadership.”
Dunleavy, 64, took a college job for the first time when he signed a six-year contract to coach Tulane in 2016, six years after his two-decade stint as an NBA coach ended. The Wave is 24-60 in his tenure, finishing 6-25 in 2016-17 and improving to 14-17 in 2017-18 before plummeting this year with a shorthanded roster.
The biggest blow came when Melvin Frazier left for the NBA after a breakout junior season. Also, starting point guard Ray Ona Embo will miss the entire year with patellar tendinitis, and starting center Buay Koka will not be back after fracturing a finger in mid-January.
Tulane’s best mark in the AAC with Dunleavy was 5-13 last season, but its struggles pre-dated his arrival. The Wave went 6-12 and 3-15 in its first two years in the league under predecessor Ed Conroy.
Tulane has not been to the NCAA tournament since 1995, and it last appeared in the NIT in 2000.
One positive sign is an uptick in recruiting. The current freshman class of Kevin Zhang, Connor Crabtree and Moses Wood was ranked fifth in the 12-team AAC according to 247Sports.com. Zhang chose Tulane instead of UCLA, and Crabtree turned down a late offer from Memphis.
The two-player 2019 class includes 6-foot-9 power forward Nobal Days, who had offers from Wisconsin, Kansas State and Marquette among others.
In January, the Wave received a commitment from 2020 prospect Elijah Wood, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard whom Rivals.com ranks the 105th overall prospect in the nation.