Mike Dunleavy is one of the more experienced head coaches to be linked as a possibility to become the Lakers next head coach. He has already interviewed for the job, but it will still be a while before the Lakers come to a decision.
Dunleavy’s most recent job was with the Los Angeles Clippers who came very close to signing Kobe Bryant as a free agent in the summer of 2004. Dunleavy recalled that time on Max and Marcellus on ESPN LA 710:
He was very close. Word on the street was if they didn’t trade Shaq, he was gonna leave […] He did say he was very comfortable and he could see himself playing for the Clippers […] one thing that he promised Dr. Buss is that he would have the last call, which to me was the big danger zone […] And sure enough, the day before free agency they traded Shaq to Miami[…] and I got the call from Kobe saying ‘Coach, I’m going back to the Lakers’
That summer was a very nervous one for Lakers fans. Many were upset at the trade of O’Neal and had Kobe decided to go to the Clippers, the entire landscape of the NBA would have been different.
But that story is relatively well known. What most people don’t know is that Kobe could have been a Milwaukee Buck. Dunleavy, then coach of the Bucks, revealed to Max and Marcellus that he was very interested in drafting Bryant out of high school, but ultimately didn’t due to circumstances out of his control:
I wanted to draft him when he was coming out when I was in Milwaukee. I had a deal in place to go back from 4 to 8 and get 3 draft picks along the way, and Arn Tellum wouldn’t send him in to workout for us and my owner wouldn’t let me pick him because of it.
Ultimately, everything worked out for the Lakers as Bryant has become one of the greatest players the league has ever seen. Now, Dunleavy may just get his wish to coach Kobe after all, and that relationship with Kobe will be key to his success should he become the next coach.
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