A Tale of Two Van Gundys

It’s funny how things work out sometimes.

One minute, things are going grand.  Life is a blur, wins are coming a dime a dozen, you’re coaching a roster full of future Hall of Famers and the next moment… you’re GONE.

Then you find good fortune once again.  You build your new roster with more quality talent, this time perhaps better than before.  You boast even more success until you nearly reach the pinnacle and BAM!  You’re out a second time.  Don’t let the door hit you.

Being an NBA head coach who’s been fired from two different, high-profile positions, both times in unsavory fashion, carries a stigma that’s hard to shed.

Stan Van Gundy never got his chance to ride off into the sunset, despite being a pretty damn good basketball coach.  He’s made his millions and won his fair share of ballgames yet probably still won’t be hired by any team any time soon.  But the guy could coach some basketball.

Do you know how I know that?

Because he has a .641 regular season winning percentage (that’s 64% of his games, people).  That’s better than Jerry Sloan.  That’s better than George Karl.  That’s better than Chuck Daly.  That’s better than Rudy Tomjanovich.  And that’s better than Rick Adelman.  As coaches go, they are considered among the best in their craft.

Yet ironically, Stan Van Gundy can’t find a job.

On the flipside, most basketball fans consider Stan’s younger brother, head coach turned ESPN analyst, Jeff Van Gundy, to be a pretty successful coach.  Jeff’s name routinely surfaces as a potential replacement to whichever coach has become casualty of the month.  His brother Stan, however, who boasts a better regular and post-season coaching record, is never mentioned when vacancies come about, assuming he’d even want that at this point.  Being escorted out of Florida’s two, professional, basketball franchises must have left a bad taste in his mouth.  Perhaps the new Seattle franchise is hiring, although 3500 miles away might still be too close to his Sunshine State Sayonaras.

I was an Orlando Magic fan during their second (and first) runs at a championship.  I saw firsthand what Stan Van was able to create out of a team that, only years earlier, tried to attract fans to the Amway Center by using the marketing slogan “Heart and Hustle.”   They might as well have told fans “We suck but we try!  Please come buy a ticket!”  This was your post-Shaq, pre-Tracy McGrady Magic.

The older Van Gundy replaced Brian Hill, who replaced Johnny Davis, who replaced Doc Rivers who coached that Heart and Hustle team and won NBA Coach of the Year by doing so.  Rivers later went on to win a title with the Boston Celtics.

Stan Van Gundy never got that lucky.  He coached a pre-LeBron Miami Heat team that won 59 games but was summarily fired (or resigned, depending on who you believe) after starting the subsequent season 11-10.  Pat Riley immediately took over and won a title.  As Miami was getting fitted for their championship rings, Stan Van Gundy’s neck was being fitted for its albatross.  It fit nicely.

Two years later, Stan Van was hired in Orlando.  He won no less than 52 games in each of his first, four seasons until the Dwight-Van rumble went into full effect.  I don’t really feel like reliving that drama but you can read about it here and here and here.  Neither Stan Van Gundy nor Dwight Howard is currently employed by the Orlando Magic.

There was a time, however, when Stan Van’s Magic were challenging for an NBA title and that he had become, dare I say, a cult figure in Orlando.  The fans loved him and why shouldn’t they have?  He had recreated a winning culture in a city that had barely known one.  He demanded the best out of his players, just as any successful boss in any line of work, would do.  For a brief playoff run, he got that out of them.

In the 2008-09 season, Orlando surged through the NBA playoffs, ultimately losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.  During that run, Stan’s Magic beat the LeBron-led Cavaliers, the Iguodala-led Sixers and the Pierce and Company led-Celtics before faltering on the NBA’s biggest stage.

Three years after failing to duplicate that success, Orlando cut Stan loose.  The Magic disappeared and remain irrelevant.  Unlike his brother, his name has yet to resurface among coaching vacancies, despite being overqualified.  Because of two individuals in particular, Pat Riley and Dwight Howard, Stan Van can’t find work.

Our natural instinct for revisionist history keeps Stan Van jobless.  He’s considered a hothead who got ran out of town (twice) for his refusal to kowtow to star players but in this case the numbers do not lie.  Van Gundy can coach ‘em up.  It’s just too bad he can no longer find a place to prove it.

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35 Replies to “A Tale of Two Van Gundys”

  1. Pingback: A Tale of Two Van Gundys - BallHyped Blog Network, NBA | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. If I had a team, I’d hire Stan in a heartbeat. As for Jeff, I think he’s a major douche. I don’t think he knows anymore about the game of basketball than my long dead grandmother. When he’s doing color on a game I’m watching, I turn down the sound. I think he gets paid by the word because what comes out of his pie hole is nothing but useless information. But to the main point of your column: Why isn’t Stan Van Gundy coaching now? Because he speaks his mind and that tends to piss off owners big time. As for coaching ability, there are probably 15 teams in the NBA who would be doing better right now if Stan was their coach. Even the Lakers, HAHAHA!

  3. Yeah he ‘might’ have earned a ring before Riley pushed him aside, but NBA owners and GM’s only count Rings. SVG has no rings so he’ll be granted few future opportunities to obtain one with an established ‘winning’ team. Maybe Seattle will take a chance on him…

    The Lakers have a better record under Bernie Bickerstaff than either Mike Brown or Mike D’Antoni. So much for big name coaches…

  4. Jeff provides viewers with the simpleton’s guide to NBA analysis and you can always count on Stan to whine like a bi#ch ! That’s all I’ve got to add on the matter ! ‘nough said !

    Let me pose this question to you Chris , what players have either Van Gundy brothers drafted and developed into bonafide perennial NBA All Stars ? Can you actually think of one , as that to my mind is the mark of a great coach !

    Tophatal …………..

  5. The revamped Kings will not want anything to do with SVG . That ownership group headed by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer will want someone with a proven track record and a coach who can actually communicate with his players , rather than whine like a petulant child .

    Tophatal ………..

  6. Stan Van can coach my team anytime. Why not have a tearful reunion with Dwight Howard in Los Angeles?

    The question is does Stan even want to coach anymore?

  7. Snake…

    I’m not sure what it’s going to take for Stan to get another gig, like I said, if he even wants one.

    The way he got run out of both those spots was pretty damn embarrassing.

    It would be refreshing though to see him get one more chance and have the last laugh although again, I don’t know why anyone would take a job coaching against Miami these days. Yes, I still think they’re going to win it all.

    Maybe the smart move is to wait for LeBron to retire.

  8. Tree…

    I definitely think the Lakers should have given Bickerstaff a chance.

    They knew what they were getting in D’Antoni. A run and gun coach without a run and gun roster.

    That’s not working out to well for them now, is it?

  9. Al…

    Let’s look at it this way.

    Name the players on that Magic team that Van Gundy coached to the Finals.

    Dwight, who we’re learning is a baby who plays when he wants. An aging Vince Carter, who nobody respected, even when he was younger, for anything other than his dunking ability. Rashard Lewis, who many consider to have signed one of the worst contracts in NBA history. Jameer Nelson, who we’re still not convinced is a staring NBA point guard. And Hedo Turkoglu who we learned wasn’t as good as we all thought.

    You have to give the guy credit. He brought that team to the Finals, man. That’s some pretty damn god coaching.

  10. Al…

    That’s my point.

    Stan Van Gundy has a proven track record. He has a .641 career winning percentage.

    Do you know how many active coaches have a better record than that?


    Gregg Poppovich and Tom Thibodeau.

  11. No I don’t give credit to a coach who whines like a child not allowed to suckle on his mother’s breast, for milk ! In this case he’s whining because he felt the whole world was against him . And let’s look at this way , that .641 record , when you consider that the preponderance of his career was coaching in a weakened Eastern Conference where .500 gets you into the postseason it’s easy feel enamored with a stat like that .

    Less we forget what was the end result of that foray in the Finals to begin with ? How easily one can be swayed by mediocrity .

    Would he have been as good , were he coaching in the Western Conference ?

    Get real , Chris !

    Tophatal ………………

  12. Al…

    I take it you’re the lone person in the poll above who chose they would not take Stan Van as their coach.

    And speaking of Thibodeau, did you know that his .704 regular season winning percentage is currently the best EVER?

    That’s right. Even better than the Zen Master himself.

  13. Those who commented above have made some good points, Jed.

    Stan Van’s probably the kind of guy that needs free reign, not necessarily final say on all GM decision-making but at least a say on who they sign and cut.

    He’d also need the full backing of ownership when it came to laying into players who weren’t giving their all.

    Listen, that SacTown team is pretty horrible and there are plenty of other teams that could use him as well.

    The question is whether there are that many owners out there that would give a guy like Stan Van Gundy their full support.

  14. Why would I take SVG , when Pop is the ” big daddy and cheese whiz in the mix ? Come on man give me some credit !

    Of course I was aware of Thibodeau ! Man he’s an ex member of the Spurs’ coaching staff , as was Scott Brooks . So as an avid fan of the Spurs , I’ll follow the progress of guys of that stature , who have been given the chance to show their “chops” .

    Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen would only go with SVG as a last resort . They’re likely to asses high profiled college coaches such as Tom Crean , Larrinaga , Pitino , or peruse the coaching staffs of teams such as the Spurs , Thunder , Celtics , Bulls and Grizzlies for a potential coach .

    I hear some Knicks’ fans have gone into hiding , as the team takes a tumble in the conference standings . What’s up with that ?

    Tophatal ………………..

  15. SVG’s strengths are said to ….. he’s a great X’s and O’s coach . Problem however , he whines way too much and he’s a damn poor communicator with some of his players . Not exactly conducive for an ownership group seeking a coach who can get the job done !

    That doesn’t look good on anyone’s resume’ and even you have got to admit that .

    Thibodeau’s tenure as an NBA head coach is now how long ? And you’re throwing up those stats against Phil Jackson and his achievements , to make what sort of a point , when the former (Thibodeau) has yet to win anything of note . What’s your mindset with that ?

    Tophatal ……………….

  16. Al…

    I’m obviously not suggesting the Spurs replace Pop with SVG.

    All I’m saying is Van Gundy has a better coaching record than most people think and it’s a large enough sample size that I don’t think you can say, well, he was coaching in a mediocre Eastern Conference so his numbers are inflated.

    In retrospect, who’s more of a whiner, Al? Dwight or Stan? You could see that by the end of his days in Orlando, Stan was at the end of his rope.

    By no means am I suggesting that he handled matters correctly. I’m just saying it’s easy to see how things like that could get to him. He was having his job dangled over his head every day.

    And I’m also not trying to compare Thib’s numbers with the Zen’s. Far from it. I was merely mentioning he currently has the highest active winning percentage among NBA coaches while simultaneously giving my Bulls readers something to cheer about since Derrick Rose ain’t coming back this year.

  17. Chris,

    No question the man can coach. Riley’s ego pulled rank on him and fortunately for Riles DWade won the title for him. SVG obviously has personality issues with the front offices and is quietly “blackballed”. I don’t find it disturbing ’cause recycling doesn’t belong in today’s NBA. Carpetbagger like Larry Brown have been relegated to the lower level. Let’s find new talent and get rid of the good ole boy recycle fraternity. I see it happening.

  18. Chris

    They both (Dwight & SVG) whine !

    Wouldn’t you agree that the sign of a great coach is one who is able to draft well and develop talent ? Now you tell me who has Stan Van Gundy drafted , developed as a head coach and turned into a perennial</
    All Star as a player over his allegedly esteemed coaching career ? Your premise is very much built around semantics !

    If Derrick Rose is to make comeback , it might not be before the end of the Bulls’ regular season schedule .

    See former Nets’ player Jayson Williams is finally admitting to his actions in the death of limo driver Christopher ” Gus” Christofi ?

    That guy will always remain a scumbag ! He never has shown any contrition for his actions and even now after all these years it still doesn’t lessen or even remotely negate what he’s done . Now the public and Christofi’s family is expected to believe him , because his a#s has remained sober for 893 days ? Williams can go f##k himself and the horse he rode in on !

    Dropped this NBA dime piece .

    It takes a Village to raise a child , but what does it take to make an NBA franchise better?

    Tophatal ……………….

  19. Bets…

    I got tired of the constant recycling too but there are a few good young coaches out there.

    Look what Vogel’s doing in Indy.

    And there are other first-timers like Mark Jackson and Thibs that are also faring pretty well.

    Oh, and do you remember when Pat Riley used to tell D Wade that he was the best player on the planet? I wonder what he’s telling him now.

  20. Al…

    I’m not sure Stan Van had the decision-making authority to draft in either Miami or Orlando. And don’t confuse an NBA coach’s responsibility with a college coach’s. An NBA coach’s primary objective is to win now not coddle young talent. That’s what Stan did until things got out of control in Orlando.

    I do like the way Chicago is handling the Derrick Rose situation. I’d say they’re giving up on this season but they’re still fielding a competitive team.

  21. Stan Van RonJeremy may be a great X’s & O’s guy and have a great winning percentage but his squeaqy, whiny voice makes me want to shove chopsticks in my ears.

    His Alonzo Mourning ankle-biting brother is a complete doofus. Why he’s a national tv announcer is beyond me.

    Give me the Van Halen brothers over these two clowns any day.

  22. Bleeder…

    Comparing the Van Gundys to the Van Halens is simply unfair.

    Pretty sure both Alex and Eddie have much higher winning percentages, if you know what I mean.

  23. Chris

    Do you honestly believe that the Bulls (33-25) are giving up on the season ? Consider where they are in the conference standings (sixth) ? There are one of the most dangerous teams in the East at present and a potential match-up against either the Knicks or Pacers in the playoffs , is by no means a foregone conclusion !

    It’s not a matter of coddling young talent it’s a matter of drafting and seeing an improvement in the players as part of the process on the way to success ! No wonder there’s so much damn apathy and idiocy as to how fans view the alleged traits of a coach .

    SVG with the Kings are you $$$king kidding me ?

    Van Gundy has primarily coached in the East where the quality of ball being played has bordered on being downright embarrassing over the last eight years at least . Look at the standings in that time frame and what it takes for an eighth seed to get in for the postseason ? And you’re hyping a coaching stat ? Semantics like I said !

    Coach K
    could be in for problems on Saturday

    Look for Sunday and that Heat vs Knicks match-up to get really heated .

    Will there be any relief to the Magic’s season ?

    So this is how the Bobcats (13-45 ) will help Michael Jordan celebrate his fiftieth birthday ? The team will be on track to lose in excess of 50 games this season ? LOL,LOL LOL !!!

    Now we really are getting to know why 50 Cent is pi#sed at ” Money” Mayweather . The fighter still owes the rapper $2 million for dissolving their business in terms of a boxing promotion’s company .

    Responded to your initial comment on my piece .

    Joe Flacco is now the highest paid player and quarterback in NFL history ? $120 million , averaging $20 million a year for six years . Meanwhile , NFC South residents the Atlanta Falcons have started their bloodletting with the release of several players who have played a part in much of the regular season success .

    Coach K
    says he’s worried about the safety of his players after the games recently , especially the ones played at Cameron Indoor Arena ? To abate that , isn’t it best to have team actually win ?

    I say fi’ty, you say fifty , but who gives a damn ?

    Tophatal …………..

  24. Chris

    What you’re trying to state is flawed in so many ways !

    It’s like the idiocy of suggesting Gruden because he won a Superbowl with the Bucs , he was a damn great coach . The guy couldn’t spot talent much less spell the $$$king word !

    Tophatal ………………………….

  25. Responded to your comment concerning 50 Cent and his “beef” with Money Mayweather .

    Falcons are gutting their roster , meanwhile , Flacco is getting paid , 6 six years $120 million , making him the highest paid player and quarterback in the NFL ?

    Tophatal ………….

  26. Al…

    The Bulls are not giving up on the season. That’s my point. And how about Joakim’s triple double the other day. Whenever you’re the first man in the league to do something (20-20-10 plus 65% FG), that’s saying something.

    And I’m pretty sure if some team gave Stan Van Gundy a shot, even in the Western Conference, he’d eventually make a contender out of them.

    If Coach K is worried about the safety of his players, wait until you, Uncle Luke and the rest of the Miami Hurricanes hit Cameron Indoor.

  27. Al…

    I’m not sure what to make of the Falcons cutting all those guys. Do they plan on re-signing them? That was a pretty bold move for a team that had the best record in the NFC.

  28. Chris

    Noah , to my mind , is one of the most underrated big men in the league . Yet, all the talk always comes back to Dwight . At present he turns up every other game for the Lakers . Meanwhile Kupchak is hyping him as if he’s the biggest thing to hit (a href=”http://nba.com/lakers/history/”> LA since the Cripps and Bloods introduced meaningful accord to the city of Los Angeles . Put a cap in that @ss n##ga .

    All you need to know concerning the Falcons is that former Bucs GM Rich McKay runs the ship for the front office .

    All three of the prominent players cut by the Falcons will end up with new teams . It seems that they were either looking to make space to have a great deal of money under the cap .

    I’m here just to see the sites and have some fun . Tobacco Road will be safe , of that I can assure you .


  29. Al…

    You know I’ve been a huge fan of Joakim since his Florida days. I’m really glad to see him succeeding at the next level.

    And all I can say is that a weakened Falcons team bodes well for the Buccaneers.

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