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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Dunlap: Budinger wasn’t a top-25 pick

    UA associate head coach Mike Dunlap addresses the media in McKale Center on May 12. Dunlap made his first public speaking appearance Wednesday to members of the Tucson Downtown Sertoma Club at Rosarios Restaurant at the Viscout Suite Hotel.
    UA associate head coach Mike Dunlap addresses the media in McKale Center on May 12. Dunlap made his first public speaking appearance Wednesday to members of the Tucson Downtown Sertoma Club at Rosario’s Restaurant at the Viscout Suite Hotel.

    Bringing Chase Budinger back to Arizona was a major production, and Mike Dunlap played a large role.

    Just two days after the UA forward pulled his name from the NBA Draft, Dunlap, one of three new assistant coaches, made his first public speaking appearance Wednesday to discuss the return of Budinger.

    In a 35-minute talk to members of the Tucson Downtown Sertoma Club at Rosario’s Restaurant at the Viscout Suite Hotel, 4855 E. Broadway Blvd., Dunlap covered everything from bringing Budinger back, to convincing guard Nic Wise to stay at Arizona, to the possible academic problems incoming freshman Brandon Jennings may have.

    When hired on May 15, Dunlap said he asked UA head coach Lute Olson if he could work on convincing Budinger to return to Arizona for his junior season. After all, spending the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the NBA Denver Nuggets, Dunlap has an eye for NBA-caliber players.

    “”Chase has a lot of holes in his game that he needs to fill before he’s ready for that next level,”” said Dunlap, speaking from a podium in the restaurant. “”And I just came from that level and I would say to you clearly, he was not a top-25 pick. No way. He wasn’t.

    “”But has he got top-25 talent? Definitely,”” Dunlap added. “”But talent and experience are two things that have to be melted together. He made a wise move to come back.””

    Bringing Budinger back was a group effort, Dunlap said, as he worked with Olson and assistant coaches Russ Pennell and Reggie Geary, the latter of whom has had experience in the NBA as a player.

    Budinger had gone through workouts with five NBA teams while testing the waters, an experience that will only help the 2006-07 Pacific 10 Conference Freshman of the Year next season.

    “”Really, it was a great process for him to go through so he can learn more about the game and know his strengths,”” Dunlap said. “”Initially it may be a little bit of an ouch. But I think he’ll be a better player because of it.””

    Keeping Wise trim

    Another player that Dunlap said he worked on re-recruiting was Wise.

    The guard announced on May 30 that he’d be returning to the program after spending weeks contemplating a transfer. Dunlap said his biggest concern with Wise now is making sure he keeps his weight down.

    “”So Jennie Craig is now an assistant coach on our staff,”” Dunlap said with a smile. “”Jennie and I get a lot great. … It’s my job to make sure his weight stays down and that he stays away from In-N-Out Burger.

    “”He’s a giver with how he plays and sometimes he has a distorted since of reality of his importance.””

    Status of Jennings uncertain right now

    When one of the Sertoma Club members asked if Wise would be playing with Jennings in the fall, Dunlap said, “”Well, I guess the question begs, Will Jennings be playing with Nic?””

    After Jennings didn’t meet expectations when he took his SAT exam, he took another one, which the NCAA red flagged, Dunlap said. On June 6, Jennings took a third test of which the results should be revealed to the UA coaches on June 26, the coach added.

    “”We’re trying to see what our options are if Jennings doesn’t pass the SAT,”” Dunlap said. “”When it gets right down to it, we don’t control that outcome. But what we can control are, What are our options from that point?””

    Jennings has already been admitted to the UA – verified by his listing in the school’s online directory – but he must now meet NCAA requirements to be able to play. This is based on his SAT score, combined with his GPA.

    “”He can take a course or two this summer to see if his GPA is in line with his SAT score,”” Dunlap said. “”When we find out that score, then we’ll find out the targets for those classes.

    “”I think we know our options. It’s going to be up to Brandon and his family to see what he wants to do,”” Dunlap added. “”But we need to take a positive view of this. There are plenty of things that can happen on the positive side. We’re kind of in a wait-and-see situation.””

    Olson gets praise

    Dunlap spoke highly of Olson during his talk, though he didn’t heed the boss’ advice of leaving early if the media was present.

    “”Fortunately I don’t have an aversion to the media because I just keep moving,”” Dunlap said.

    Dunlap, who refereed to last season as “”a blip on the screen”” of Olson’s life and career, said he’s really looking forward to learning from Olson, a legend in the world of college basketball.

    “”I think it’s a Joe Paterno situation,”” Dunlap said, referring to Penn State’s football coach since 1966. “”Quite frankly, he is Joe Paterno in terms of basketball. A lot of people had coach Paterno pushed the wrong way and said, ‘Why is he doing this and why is he doing that?’ But things turned out great for him and I know they’ll turn out great for coach Olson in terms of how he wants to push forward.””

    Dunlap said he’s excited to be a part of Olson’s infamous run-and-gun motion offense, which wasn’t present last year when Kevin O’Neill took over the team on an interim basis.

    “”Whatever you saw in that 24 years on that pony,”” Dunlap said of Olson’s reign at Arizona, “”you’re going to see again. I think it’s pretty easy to say that the ball is going to stay off the floor.””

    Olson has lunch with former players

    One of the things that Jennings liked most about Arizona was its tradition. He liked the fact that former Wildcat greats return to Tucson to visit their former coach or to play a game of pickup basketball with the current players.

    Dunlap said that happens almost every day that he’s in his McKale Center office.

    “”A former player will come by and see Coach,”” Dunlap said. “”And I think that’s his mark.””

    While he was giving his talk at the hotel, Olson was at another Tucson restaurant having lunch with “”eight or nine”” players that once played for Olson and went on to play in the NBA, Dunlap said.

    Global recruiting

    Dunlap recently returned from Australia from working with their Olympic team. In the 1990s, he served three seasons as the head coach of the Adelaide 36ers, a professional team in Australia.

    Needless to say, he’s got experience working overseas.

    Because of that, Dunlap said he’ll be in charge of overseas recruiting.

    “”Lithuania or Israel, et cetera,”” Dunlap said. “”There are guys out there who would want a piece of the Arizona program.””

    Funny man

    He’s no O’Neill, as far as his witty sense of humor to the public and media, but Dunlap showed his lighter side. When he opened up the floor for questions, he said:

  • “”Any questions? I can ask myself questions, too. What’s your handicap, Mike? I don’t have one. I don’t golf.””
  • When asked what the starting lineup looked like for next season, he responded:

  • “”I would say that Chase Budinger has a great shot at being in the eight-man rotation.””
  • And asked about UA’s academic support system, Dunlap said:

  • “”We have a medicine ball that weighs 20 pounds. And when they don’t go to class they carry that thing on top of their head.””
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