Tulane basketball marks new beginning for coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr.

Susan Fanelli, Staff Reporter

New athletic director Troy Dannen’s off-season hires last year made big splashes in the world of the Tulane Athletics Department, and the hiring of the new men’s basketball coach was no different.

Last spring, Athletics hired Mike Dunleavy, Sr. as the new head coach of the men’s basketball team to replace Ed Conroy, who was released earlier in the year. The new head coaching job, Dunleavy’s first in six years, will mark a new chapter in his storied basketball career.

“I knew [New Orleans] very well,” Dunleavy said. “I’ve been coming here virtually every year… I knew the campus and the city and surrounding suburbs pretty well, and then the part of the conference, the teams in the conference… I felt was a good drawing card.”

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dunleavy started his basketball career as a shooting guard at the University of South Carolina. The Philadelphia 76ers drafted him in the sixth round of the NBA draft as the 99th overall pick in 1976. Dunleavy would experience 14 years of professional play with teams such as the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs and the Milwaukee Bucks.

In 1987, Dunleavy would begin his coaching career as an assistant for the Bucks after retiring from playing. His first head coaching job was with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1990, a job that lasted two years and earned him a trip to the NBA finals in 1991.

One of Dunleavy’s best known titles was as the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. This job included four playoff berths, as well as Coach of the Year honors in 1999.

Dunleavy would go on to coach four different NBA teams until 2010, when he stepped down from his position as the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. He remained general manager until he was fired from the position the same year due to salary disputes.

After his attempt to buy the New Orleans Pelicans, Dunleavy began to take a closer look at the city. Dunleavy felt personally drawn to the college game due in part to his son Baker Dunleavy, who is the assistant head coach of the Villanova Wildcats.

“I’d spent some time with the Villanova game with Baker,” Dunleavy said. “I enjoyed being around those kids and seeing the impact, feeling that that’s something I can do well, that I can improve player’s ability to better their skills.”

As the season fast approaches, Dunleavy sets his sights on the future of the Tulane men’s basketball program. According to Dunleavy, his years of head coaching in the NBA translated well to the NCAA program at Tulane.

“We’re trying to build a base, a base offensively and a base defensively,” Dunleavy said. “I’m not unused to coaching [players aged] 18-22. We get those players [in the pros], and we turn then into all-stars. We’re starting on a lower scale here, but we feel like we have the ability to teach guys and get them to be better.”

With the season scheduled to begin in November, Dunleavy is giving his team the skills and preparation it needs to take on its toughest challenges.

“The key is to give them the right direction,” Dunleavy said. “People say ‘it’s about perfect practice’… the key is getting guys to do those things correctly, and the other part I really believe is trying to get players confidence and be more positive with them.”

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