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BRENDAN McCARTHY: No straight answer on question about who'll coach St. John's Edge

St. John’s Edge photo/Jeff Parsons — Jeff Dunlap is on the record as saying he’d like to return as the St. John’s Edge coach and general manager, but the Edge ownership didn’t exactly give him a ringing endorsement in a recent statement issued to The Telegram.
St. John’s Edge photo/Jeff Parsons — Jeff Dunlap is on the record as saying he’d like to return as the St. John’s Edge coach and general manager, but the Edge ownership didn’t exactly give him a ringing endorsement in a recent statement issued to The Telegram. - Submitted

Still awaiting word on whether Dunlap will be back at helm of team next season

They could easily be described as the two key figures in the success of the St. John’s Edge during their inaugural National Basketball League of Canada season, but there has yet been no assurance either star guard and league MVP Carl English or head coach/GM Jeff Dunlap, named the NBL Canada top executive in 2017-18, will be back with the team this fall.

English, who has said he is considering retirement or returning to play in Europe in addition to coming back with the Edge, is expected to announce his plans in the near future. We could soon learn more about Dunlap as well, but it’s looking more and more like it might not simply be a matter of waiting on his decision, that it’s the organization that is trying to determine if it will move forward with Dunlap at the helm.

Earlier this week, The Telegram’s Robin Short reached out to Edge co-owner Rob Sabbagh inquiring about the status of Dunlap, especially given growing chatter that he will not be back.

Here’s the reply that came through the team’s communication’s department:

“Ownership is in the process of reflecting on what was a very successful inaugural season for the Edge both on and off the court. Discussions are ongoing with regard to next season’s team personnel, both players and coaching staff. Currently, the Edge organization has no comment on the head coach position.”

Ambiguous, yes, but to not specifically say they are determined to bring Dunlap back is telling.

For his part, Dunlap has said he enjoyed being a head coach — he was a long-time assistant in the NCAA Division 1 ranks — and especially appreciated his work as a GM, although he found separation from his family, who remained at home in North Carolina, difficult. However, in speaking with Short at season’s end, the 55-year-old, who has also been lauded for his work as an Edge ambassador, has said he is interested in coming back to St. John’s and kept referring to the Edge as “we” in his comments.

But there has never seemed to be an all-out effort by the team to retain him.

In early December, when it was officially announced Dunlap would be the team’s GM in addition to head coach, word was that he would have a two-year deal. If that was the case, it was never finalized. He does not have a contract for the 2018-19 season.

Dunlap, a native of southern California, does have an offer from Cal State Northridge University in L.A., where he would be once again be an assistant to Mark Gottfried — the two had been together at North Carolina State for six years — and has said he has other opportunities as well.

But whether it’s back with Edge or in the college ranks, it’s a certainty Dunlap will want to soon nail down his duties in order to begin putting together, or helping put together, a team for next season.

English’s decision will play a role here as well. While the 37-year-old has said he has no interest in coaching in NBL Canada, he has front-office aspirations, whether for the coming season or further into the future.

In fact, it can be said that already English has an unofficial role as a team advisor. He has particularly close ties with Irwin Simon, the team’s principal owner, who is on record as saying he is in regular contact with his star player.

“I probably speak to this man more than my wife,” joked Simon as he referred to English during a visit here earlier this year.

So look for English to be at least consulted on the coaching situation for the Edge.

If there is to be change from Dunlap, who might be the replacement?

St. John’s Edge photo/Jeff Parsons — St. John’s Edge owner Irwin Simon and Edge guard Carl English greet each other on the court prior to Game 3 of the NBL Canada Central Division final last month. In the background is English’s brother, Kevin.
St. John’s Edge photo/Jeff Parsons — St. John’s Edge owner Irwin Simon and Edge guard Carl English greet each other on the court prior to Game 3 of the NBL Canada Central Division final last month. In the background is English’s brother, Kevin.

A name that has always bounced around the Edge is that of Kyle Julius, the former head coach of the defending champion London Lightning. The 39-year-old Julius was used as an advisor when the expansion team had a hurried birth last fall, and has had a long relationship from English dating back to their days on the Canadian national men’s team.

However, Julius recently signed a new long-term contract as coach of the Saigon Heat, the Vietnamese entry in the ABL, the top basketball circuit in southeast Asia.

Given that, Doug Plumb — the head assistant to Dunlap and who held that same job with the Lightning under Julius — could be a likely candidate.

Change or not, the coaching call is going to have come soon, especially if the Edge is to take advantage of having a full off-season of preparation. Sabbagh’s reply might have mentioned discussions about coaches and players in the same breath, but it becomes more difficult to retain or recruit players when they don’t know who will be guiding them.

brendan.mccarthy@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @telybrendan

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