Two days after Dunleavy’s exit as coach, interim replacement Kim Hughes must try to help the Clippers end a 14-game losing streak to San Antonio - tied for the league’s longest drought against one opponent - on Saturday night at Staples Center.
Dunleavy was the NBA’s third-longest tenured coach despite a 215-325 record and one playoff appearance in 6 1/2 seasons on the bench. He stepped down Thursday from leading the Clippers (21-28) on the court, though he’ll continue to serve as general manager.
Dunleavy and a statement from the team called the decision voluntary and mutual - he says he’ll focus on “personnel opportunities” - but team president Andy Roeser suggested that perhaps others had a say in his removal.
“It just seems clear that the team needs a fresh voice, and we hope that our players will respond in a positive way,” Roeser said.
The Clippers beat Chicago 90-82 on Tuesday, but concluded their eight-game road trip Wednesday in Atlanta by blowing a 13-point second-half lead in a 103-97 loss.
Hughes, a former ABA and NBA player who has never been a head coach, takes over after spending the past seven seasons as Dunleavy’s assistant.
His first task on the bench couldn’t be much more difficult. Los Angeles has dropped 14 straight to San Antonio (28-20) by an average of 15.4 points. The only other active win streak by one team against another that has lasted that long is also owned by the Spurs, who have won 14 in a row against New Jersey.
After Dunleavy won his first game against San Antonio on Dec. 1, 2003, Los Angeles is 1-22 in the series - including two losses this season by an average of 21.0 points.
Los Angeles has averaged 84.9 points during the 14-game skid against San Antonio, but Hughes expects to let point guard Baron Davis(notes) run a more up-tempo style than the organized half-court sets Dunleavy preferred.
“I’ll leave a lot of the play calling up to Baron,” Hughes said. “We’ll try to push the ball whenever possible. … If I call a play in timeouts and someone has a better idea, I’m good with that.”
Hughes will face the league’s two longest-tenured coaches - Gregg Popovich and Utah’s Jerry Sloan - in his first two games, and his first adversary was hardly pleased with his team’s latest effort.
San Antonio got Tony Parker(notes) back in the lineup Thursday at Portland and led by 10 early in the fourth quarter, but fell apart en route to a 96-93 loss. The Spurs had three turnovers in the final 8:41 after having three total before that.
“Handled the ball well all night then turned it over down the stretch and didn’t shoot well,” Popovich said. “The combination of poor shooting and the turnovers down the stretch gave us the loss.”