After serving as head coach for the LMU men’s basketball team for six seasons, Mike Dunlap will no longer carry out his role as coach for the Lions following the team’s 11-21 overall record this season. Dunlap and LMU have “agreed to part ways,” according to a statement from athletic Director Craig Pintens. Dunlap ends his tenure at LMU with a collective 81-108 overall record, one appearance in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament and no NCAA tournament appearances. The decision to part ways and look for a new head coach might be a beneficial move for LMU and could bring success and attention back to the basketball program.
Dunlap is closely connected with the University, as he also graduated from the LMU in 1980. Dunlap was hired in 2014 as head coach of his alma mater's men's basketball team after a short stint in the NBA in 2013 with the Charlotte Bobcats. Coming home to LMU seemed like the perfect fit for both Dunlap and LMU. The brief time Dunlap spent at LMU as head coach brought a competitive, hard-working team to the Bluff each year, though in his tenure as head coach he only had one season with a winning record.
Dunlap's first three seasons saw growth and improvement. The Lions won eight games in Dunlap’s first season in 2015, followed by back-to-back 15-win seasons in 2016 and 2017. The following season in 2018, however, saw the team regress to an 11-20 overall record and an eighth place finish out of 10 teams in the West Coast Conference (WCC).
Last season was undoubtedly the most successful season for Dunlap, which saw his roster remain healthy and hard-working, finishing with a 22-12 overall record. The 2019 team ended its season with a postseason berth in the CBI tournament, making it to the semifinals before being eliminated. This was the Lions' best finish since 1990 and the only season where the Lions finished with a winning record under Dunlap.
Following the success of the 2019 season, the Lions performed poorly this season, placing eighth in the conference and ending the season with a second-round exit in the WCC tournament. However, a lot of this season’s struggles can be attributed to key players graduating and projected starters not being available throughout the season.
Dunlap’s time at LMU should be remembered as a period of stability for the program. Expectations, while not high, were exceeded at times, and LMU basketball experienced one of the best years in program history in 2019 under his leadership. However, hiring a new coach is still the right move for LMU, as Dunlap could not consistently coach and produce a winning team. Moving in a new direction is the best opportunity to start fresh and find a spark to light a fire for this basketball program. If the right coach is found — one who can recruit and guide the men’s basketball team to new heights — Dunlap can be credited as being a bridge in the program’s history, creating a foundation for the men’s basketball program.
The time for a change appears to be a necessary one. New logo branding, a new athletic director, and a change in direction could be what is necessary to bring success and excitement back to the men’s basketball program — success on a level that has not been experienced on the Bluff since 1990.
This is the opinion of Miles Thomas, a junior communications studies major from Hermosa Beach, California. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.