LA Clippers Relieve Mike Dunleavy Of Coaching Duties

By Ross Everett

In one of the stranger front office shakeups in recent NBA history, the Los Angeles Clippers have 'relieved' Mike Dunleavy of his head coaching duties effective immediately. He'll remain on board as the Clippers' general manager, and both he and the team cited the demands of the forthcoming trade deadline and free agent market as a catalyst for the change. Dunleavy leaves as the most successful head coach in the team's less than distinguished history.

Not surprisingly, there is much speculation as to the back story behind the move. Some with knowledge of the situation suggest that Clippers' owner Donald Sterling wanted to fire Dunleavy altogether, but relented due to the $5 million the team will owe him in the final year of his contract next year. More recently, a bizarre rumor has been circulating that Sterling has approached Isiah Thomas about taking over Dunleavy's coaching position and becoming team president. While Isiah would bring a level of fabulousness never before seen on the Clippers' sidelines, he hasn't had much success either as a coach or executive in the NBA.

Dunleavy issued this statement, playing along with the team's insistence that the decision to give up coaching was 'mutual':

"I've come to the conclusion that this is the ideal time for me to direct my efforts toward the many personnel opportunities that lie before us, such as the trade market, the draft and the free-agent process. We fully expect to be active and productive on all those fronts."

Team President Andy Roeser sounded a similar tone:

"We fully agree with Mike that this is the right time to make this change. It just seems clear that the team needs a fresh voice and we hope that our players will respond in a positive way.As we approach the trade deadline, the NBA draft and the upcoming free-agent period, our team is very well positioned from a salary-cap standpoint. Mike's experienced input will be vitally important as we continue to develop our young talented nucleus and shape our team's future."

Dunleavy's agent Warren LeGarie didn't deviate from the script:

"This is something we've been contemplating for some time. There's a shelf life to coaching sometimes. So you constantly have to keep measuring whether [the team's inconsistency] is because of injuries, because of you, or something else. And at some point you have to make a judgment call about what's best for the team, and that's what Mike did."

The Clippers have lost 7 of their last 10 games to fall to 21-29 on the year. They're 17 games behind the Western Conference leading Los Angeles Lakers and 8 games out of the final playoff spot. The schedule won't get any easier for the Clippers after the break as they head to Portland's Rose Garden Arena to take on the Blazers. - 31494

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