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Dunlap’s done, but what a ride

Citizen Staff Writer



INDIANAPOLIS – Arizona associate head coach Mike Dunlap likely will be gone from Tucson by Monday.

His work is done with the Wildcats.

All season – his only one with the program after being hired by former UA coach Lute Olson last offseason – Dunlap has said he would leave once the season was over.

The Wildcats lost 103-64 to Louisville in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

His family has returned to Denver to get on with their lives and he plans to join them soon.

“It was fantastic, wonderful, great,” Dunlap said of his time with UA. “It was an opportunity to take something that was clearly discombobulated – a very difficult situation – and run it the way we wanted to run it, and beyond.

“If you were a betting man from Oct. 24-28 you probably wouldn’t have had us in this spot.”

Few did. Here’s the scenario: On Oct. 23, Olson suddenly retired and a day later Dunlap declined an offer to become the team’s interim head coach and Russ Pennell became the interim coach. On Oct. 28, Olson announced a stroke he suffered in the previous year was a major reason for his not returning.

Arizona’s assistant coaches continued on.

So, almost 11 months after taking the job of associate head coach, after learning who was who and what was what in the long history of Arizona basketball, Dunlap is gone.

Bright. Articulate. Learned. Well-read. Dunlap was all of them before he arrived in Tucson. And after this season of ups and downs, he is even brighter and more knowledgeable because of his experience with UA.

“It has just reconfirmed what I knew already,” Dunlap said. “No. 1 is that it is not about me. It’s about a group of young men and whatever lessons I could provide them with my actions.”

One lesson was about not quitting. Dunlap said he could have quit when UA declined to give him its full commitment to be the head coach. But he didn’t. Instead, he stayed and helped shape the team.

“I could have picked up a job in the NBA and didn’t,” he said. “And the guys didn’t quit. We took something that was difficult and made it better.”

For Dunlap, despite UA’s big loss Friday, he said Arizona “held the line.”

UA made it to the Sweet 16 in an against-all-odds season, finishing 21-14. “And we didn’t have the resources that last year’s group had,” he said.

Last year’s team had an NBA lottery pick in then-freshman guard Jerryd Bayless and a former McDonald’s All-American in Jawann McClellan, in addition to this season’s Big Three of Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise.

“My point is we took less and did more,” he said. “We held the line. When people reflect on this season it’s not going to be anything but, ‘Boy didn’t they do a good job? How about those guys?’ “

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