Mark Stein reports in ESPN’s Weekend Dime:
One source plugged in to Clipperland insists owner Donald Sterling has already flirted seriously with the idea of dismissing Mike Dunleavy immediately, [...] despite the fact that Dunleavy still is owed $5 million next season on top of this season’s $5 million.
Doubts persist about Sterling’s willingness to let Dunleavy go with that much money left on his contract, but attendance is flagging, and the offseason addition of John Lucas as an assistant coach appears to give Sterling an easy and inexpensive option for an interim replacement with NBA head-coaching experience.
We have all assumed that it would take a near apocalypse for The Donald to take the hit on Dunleavy’s salary. The thing that makes me believe that perhaps he might finally change his mind is the comment about low attendance. I’ve gotta say, watching the games on tv I’ve been amazed at the blankets of empty seats down low. If a change of coaching not only gets fans back on board, but also actually makes the team better, this could actually increase profits for Sterling. I don’t know if teams raise the salary for assistant coaches when they become interim coaches, but even if they do, it probably wouldn’t be a significant amount. The minimal extra money Lucas would make should certainly be less than the dough raked in at the gate. Also, would the $10 million owed Dunleavy really be tossed out the door? Not in the scenario that many of us fans have been calling for:
One trusted source I consulted this week suggests Dunleavy could leave the bench and still retain his front-office gig, given that several of his recent roster moves — drafting Eric Gordon, foisting Zach Randolph on Memphis for a nice chunk of cap space next summer and stealing Rasual Butler from the salary-dumping Hornets — have been excellent. Instead of paying Dunleavy to leave, Sterling appears to have the option of keeping him as personnel chief, since Dunleavy and Lucas are longtime pals and presumably could coexist in a GM-coach relationship.
Sounds brilliant, eh? A no-brainer to kick Dun upstairs, right? Until we get to this last line:
Yet another trusted source, however, says Dunleavy wouldn’t accept serving as GM only, which further muddies the picture.
That means Sterling would need to suck up the full amount, plus hire a new GM. The thing is: either way they have to pay Dunleavy his $10 million, so in a sense that money’s gone already & there’s nothing we can do about it. The question becomes if Sterling pays, say an extra million combined by hiring a new GM & giving Lucas a raise, would the added tickets at the gate bring in at least that much money (& hopefully more)? I think it’s a no-brainer & Sterling should definitely do it. Hell, if he wants to hedge his bets, then get rid of Kareem Rush (his contract is non-guaranteed) too, which’d save nearly a million dollars too. That’d guarantee Sterling won’t have to sink any more $ into the team, while there’d be a huge, huge, huge likelihood of making more dough with a newfound surge in fan interest.