LOS ANGELES -- The Clippers' mounting losses, injuries and lack of playoff success finally took their toll on coach Mike Dunleavy. For once, he wanted to watch a movie instead of game film on the flight home.
Dunleavy said that's when he knew it was time to step aside as coach and for him to focus strictly on his duties as general manager.
"I thought, 'It's time for me to give somebody else a shot, you're burnt out on this," he said Friday at the team's practice facility.
In a move that surprised his players, Dunleavy turned things over after 6½ years on the bench to assistant Kim Hughes, who'll make his debut as interim coach at home against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night.
The team has lost five of six, and with nine of their next 13 games at home it could be a pivotal stretch that decides whether the Clippers make a move toward their first playoff appearance since 2006 or chalk up another lost season.
At 21-28, the Clippers are 12th in the Western Conference. They dropped a season-worst seven games under .500 with six losses on a just-completed eight-game road trip.
Dunleavy said he initially proposed giving up coaching after the Clippers lost at Phoenix on Christmas Day. But owner Donald Sterling said he didn't want to do it.
"I was really down off that loss," Dunleavy said.
He perked up after the Clippers beat Boston 92-90 two days later, and he was buoyed by a four-game winning streak that included their first win over the Lakers since 2007.
"Now we regained our momentum and I got a little battery life," he said. "As a coach you need to be recharged and regenerated, and the way that happens is your players win big games for you."
But the momentum quickly evaporated with four consecutive losses. Then came the disastrous eight-game road trip that cemented Dunleavy's decision, which should assuage fans who chanted "Fire Dunleavy" at some home games.
"I said to myself, `Maybe they're not hearing me, maybe the things I'm saying is not getting through at times, maybe another voice could do it.' It came down to the last two or three years, a lot of wear and tear as far as trying to juggle lineups," he said.
"This trip was a real drain on me and I worried about my enthusiasm going forward. If that was an issue, then it's time to make a change."
Dunleavy was 215-325 in 6½ seasons on the bench, and Los Angeles made the playoffs just once in his first six seasons, getting within one game of the Western Conference finals in 2006. The Clippers haven't been back to the playoffs since, winning just 42 games in the past two seasons.
Dunleavy will be off scouting when Hughes is introduced as coach Saturday.
"Everybody is pretty much in shock so far," said Davis, who credits Dunleavy with helping him improve. "The only way we'll know how everybody truly feels is by how we come out and play."
Hughes has been Dunleavy's assistant since they started together in Los Angeles, and subbed for him when Dunleavy was ill. A former ABA and NBA player who has never been a head coach, Hughes spent several years on the Nuggets' bench before joining the Clippers, and has been a scout in Denver and Milwaukee.
"It's hard to say you want a job when you've never tried it," Hughes said. "Some people may perceive 33 games, it's a tough gig. I think it's a wonderful chance. I'm not fearful it could be a short reign."
Hughes said he has not been promised his old job back if he isn't hired as the permanent coach.
Unlike Dunleavy, who called most of the plays, Hughes will leave that to Davis.
"Now I just got to learn them all," Davis said, smiling.
Hughes said the team will run more while emphasizing tough defense. Practices will be shorter, there will be fewer film sessions, and Hughes promises to keep his pregame speeches to eight minutes.
"For me, shorter is sweeter. We need to shorten the intelligence factor and make things simpler for us," he said. "We've gotten stale. There's so much things, our guys were kind of fried."
Dunleavy vowed he won't offer Hughes any unsolicited advice, even though the coaching mentality will stay with him.
"I wanted to stay with this organization, see things through, one way or the other," he said. "I would have rather done it as a successful coach, but on the other hand, I can see ahead. It was going to be a tough struggle all the way through."