Jay Wright begged him not to do it, but Baker Dunleavy wouldn’t listen.Being the son of a veteran NBA coach, whose older brother is still going strong in his 12thNBA season, basketball was simply too much in his blood — literally — to leave the game behind.
So he gave up a budding career on Wall Street — just like his Dad had done a few decades ago —took a pay cut and returned to his true love: hoops.He’s never looked back.
Four years later the kid who describes himself as a “recruited walk-on,’’ who played sparingly for Wright’s 2006 No. 1 seeded powerhouse that lost to eventual champ Florida in the Elite Eight, is now Jay’s right-hand man.
He is doing a bit of everything under the radar as associate head coach the No. 6 ranked team that plays much the same way.
“When he told me he wanted to coach I said ‘No, don’t do this,’’ recalled Wright, who eventually brought Dunleavy aboard in 2012. “He was my pride and joy as a Wall Street guy.I knew once he did he’d be great at it. He’s really smart and he’s a coaches’ son”
One who doesn’t want his rest his laurels on his bloodlines.
“It’s always a conversation piece,” said Baker, whose Dad, Mike Sr. coached 17 years for the Lakers, Bucks, Trail Blazers and Clippers, while brother Mike Jr. now plays for the Bulls, his fourth NBA team. “But I’m also mindful I don’t like to make that who I am. I’m really proud of where I came from.At the same time I want to feel I have something to offer.”
As a player William Baker Dunleavy — named in honor of his Mom’s relative, former Secretary of State, James Baker —did little for the Wildcats. Following graduation he spent a year playing in Holland, before taking a job on Wall Street.
“I had a front row seat to the epic market collapse,” said the 31-year-old Dunleavy, who’ll often run practice if Wright is delayed. “For me it was an unbelievable learning experience.People were really in a panic. But basketball kept pulling at me. I missed it. It wasn’t like I had to come back and work at Villanova, but the timing worked out.”
Like his father, Baker made the transition from the financial world to hoops almost effortlessly.
“He’s got a great mind for the game and great temperament for coaching,” said Mike Sr., the 1999 Coach of the Year in Portland, whose 11-year playing career began with a 1977 Sixers’ team that went to the NBA Finals. “I’m really impressed with him, as a coach.People have talked to him about being a head coach. But it would have to be a great job for him to leave job he has. He loves working with Jay.”
Indeed, with a 10-month old daughter and established roots in the area, Baker Dunleavy is in no hurry to leave Villanova.
“I know I want to be a head coach,” said Baker, who recalls horsing around with Magic Johnson and James Worthy when his Dad coached the Lakers. “That’s a definite.But one of the frustrating things in this business is so much of it is out of your control. If I could never to be a head coach there’s no other place I’d rather be than Villanova.But it’s not something I’m in a rush to do.”
Of course, when your team plays like these Villanova Wildcats, it’s likely Baker Dunleavy will soon start getting noticed, having long since proven to Jay Wright this sure beats Wall Street.
And in the process doing the family tradition proud.