One-time CU basketball coaching candidate Mike Dunlap returns to CU Events Center

No. 20 Buffs face Loyola Marymount in final pre-Kansas tuneup


Now in his 10th season as the leader of the University of Colorado men’s basketball team, coach Tad Boyle boasts a squad that has an opportunity to go down as the best of his tenure.

Yet on Wednesday night, there will be a moment at the CU Events Center to wonder about the “what if?” twist of fate that first brought Boyle to Boulder. Working the opposing bench Wednesday night will be Mike Dunlap, who climbed to coaching prominence at Metro State in the early 2000s and was a final candidate for a CU job that former athletic director Mike Bohn ultimately gave to Boyle in the spring of 2010.

Dunlap has traversed a nomadic coaching path since then, but he is in his sixth season at his alma mater, Loyola Marymount, which visits the Events Center for the first time in 19 years in the 21st-ranked Buffs’ final tune-up before Saturday’s highly-anticipated showdown at No. 2 Kansas.

Acting head coach Mike Dunlap of ...
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After several coaching stops including the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, Mike Dunlap has settled in at Loyola Marymount, his alma mater, who comes to the CU Events Center on Wednesday to play Tad Boyle’s Colorado Buffaloes.

“I wanted the job, and the better man got the job,” Dunlap said. “Tad and I got to the finals, the final interview, but they made a great choice. He’s done everything they thought he could do.

“I still love coming back to Colorado because of the memories and friends. I still have a lot of friends there. We lived there for 12 years and our family grew up there. Needless to say, we have a lot of positive memories.”

Dunlap is best remembered locally for his run of nine consecutive Division II NCAA Tournament appearances in nine seasons at Metro, including national championship seasons in 2000 and 2002. Since then he has spent time as an assistant with the Denver Nuggets as well as Arizona, Oregon, and St. John’s. After getting fired somewhat controversially after one season as the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats — Dunlap tripled Charlotte’s win total from a year previous, but it has been widely reported his style proved too grating for NBA players — Dunlap landed at Loyola Marymount.

“I wish I was still coaching Charlotte, but to be at my alma mater after playing here, and coming here and building the program from zero has been a delight,” said Dunlap, whose club went 22-12 last year. “I think most people would like to coach where they played.”

The Buffs will be looking to put together a more efficient offensive performance after a three-game spell in which CU has averaged just 62 points alongside 14.7 turnovers while shooting .401 overall. While CU won all three of those games and is playing outstanding defense, any potential upset bid on Saturday at Kansas certainly will require a more improved offense.

“Offensively, the biggest thing for us is we have to get the ball moved. We have to move the ball, and we have to have great movement after we pass the ball,” Boyle said. “We can’t pass and stand against these guys. Because they’re going to mix-up their defenses. They’re going to press some. They’re going to trap some. They’re going to run some zone, they’re going to run some man. They just try to keep you off-balance offensively. We can’t be thinking the game tomorrow night. We have to be playing the game. And I think there’s a big difference in that.”

Loyola Marymount at No. 21 CU Buffs

TIPOFF: Wednesday, 8 p.m., CU Events Center.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Networks; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Loyola Marymount 3-4; Colorado 6-0.

COACHES: Loyola Marymount — Mike Dunlap, 6th season (80-85 at Loyola Marymount and overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 10th season (195-123, 251-189 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Loyola Marymount — F Ivan Alipiev, So., 13.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg; G/F Eli Scott, Jr., 12.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.9 apg; F Parker Dortch, Jr. 9.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg. Colorado — F Tyler Bey, Jr., 14.2 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 2.8 apg; G McKinley Wright, Jr., 11.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.5 apg; G/F D’Shawn Schwartz, Jr., 11.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 10-for-20 3-pointers.

WHAT TO WATCH: CU’s top offensive performers didn’t necessarily have bad games against Sacramento State, but the Buffs nonetheless would like to change a few trends. Schwartz didn’t attempt a 3-pointer in a game for the first time since the tail end of his freshman season. Bey attempted only three shots. Wright finished with one assist and three turnovers. If those figures reverse course, the Buffs will be in good shape heading into Saturday’s showdown at Kansas.

NOTES: The Buffs and Lions have met just three times, with CU winning home contests in 1983 and 2000…Dunlap’s staff includes his two successors as the head coach at Metro State in Brannon Hays and Derrick Clark. Clark also was a CU assistant for three seasons under Jeff Bzdelik prior to Boyle’s arrival…Since going 0-for-4 on 3-pointers in the season opener against Arizona State, Bey has gone 4-for-6 from long range in the five games since…Through Monday’s games, Bey led the nation in’s defensive rebounding percentage. Bey’s 12.5 rebounds per game also leads the Pac-12…Wright needs 19 points to become the 35th member of CU’s 1,000-point club…CU senior Lucas Siewert needs two 3-pointers to reach 100 in his career…Loyola Marymount is coming off a 61-51 win at home Sunday against Southern Utah…Through Monday’s games the Buffs ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense (55.0) and 11th in defensive field goal percentage (.356).