Pelicans go for experience with Stan Van Gundy
It was a foregone conclusion by the middle of October.
Once Tyronn Lue decided to remain in Los Angeles to take over as head coach of the Clippers, it was pretty obvious to all observers that New Orleans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin would turn to Van Gundy to take over his team.
While many have focused on the possibility of a Van Gandy taking over an NBA team including the Pelicans, the name that was most frequently mentioned was Jeff Van Gundy, the brother of Jeff Van Gundy.
While Jeff remains an NBA analyst on television, Stan is abandoning the broadcast booth to analyze talent in acute fashion in a return to the sideline for New Orleans. To use the term “bench” would not be appropriate as players and coaches have not sat on a bench for years.
Van Gundy has expressed how excited he was to get the job, and why not?
When you have a young nucleus which includes Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, along with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Frank Jackson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes, there is a need for a coach with experience at molding a young team into a cohesive unit.
A youthful squad with talent needs a coach that can command respect, based on having skins on the wall.
Van Gundy has spent 11 seasons as a head coach in the NBA with Miami, Orlando and Detroit. He has an impressive career mark of 523-384 that includes winning four division titles, reaching the playoffs eight times and taking his Magic team to the NBA Final in 2003.
Van Gundy last coached in the NBA in 2017-18 with the Pistons. His last team to reach the playoffs was his Detroit team in 2015-16.
Now 61, Van Gundy is a talker who speaks his mind.
He is not afraid to confront players but has built what appear to be solid relationships with players over the years.
With a young team, having a mature voice with credibility is essential.
With a young team, having a veteran coach who is not afraid to discipline young players is also important.
Veteran teams have a tendency to tune out those who attempt to discipline.
The argument against Van Gundy is he hasn’t coached in a couple of seasons and things did not go very well in Detroit.
Additionally, there were many who advocated hiring a young coach that could grow with a young team, as opposed to a retread.
In examining the coaches in New Orleans, Paul Silas was the older established coach nearing the end of his career.
Tim Floyd was the younger coach, who had been an NBA coach previously, and really was not given a chance in New Orleans with a pair of veteran players who tuned him out.
Byron Scott was a former player who did command respect but whose laid back style and work ethic eventually led to his dismissal.
Jeff Bower was a front office person minding the store capably.
Monty Williams was a young coach in his first head coaching position who grew into the job. Williams was a questionable bench coach who got better. By the time he was dismissed, he was maturing into being a good NBA head coach but he was dismissed despite taking his final team to the playoffs, a mandate from management. To this day, some felt that it was the wrong move to let Williams go.
Alvin Gentry was a veteran coach who had enjoyed moderate success, less than Van Gundy. He was well liked but his ability to make adjustments and to demand that his teams play defense let to his demise.
The key for Van Gundy will be connecting with Williamson and Ingram, a pair of bookend players who you can build a franchise around.
Then, a decision on Jrue Holiday, a highly paid veteran, must be made.
Holiday is a consummate professional and an elite defender on a bad defensive team. He is also highly paid, due to make over $25 million in the 2020-21 season. Holiday is a good, not great player.
When Griffin got the job with the Pelicans, he declared it to be Holiday’s team. Is that still going to be the feeling or is it going to Van Gundy’s team? When will it become Zion’s team?
Van Gundy will need to address defense and rim protection, sorely lacking in both departments this past season.
It will be hard finding someone of that ilk in the draft so trading an asset would seem to be the way to go.
The clear assets that would bring the kind of value in return that you are looking for and sorely need could only be accrued by dealing Holiday or Lonzo Ball, a younger player who is looked at as a future star by some and as an overrated, average talent by others. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The Pelicans have a glut of guards on the roster and not enough minutes to parcel.
The guess here is that one or two of the veteran guards will not be here next season.
E’Twaun Moore is an unrestricted free agent.
J.J. Redick is entering the final year of his deal.
Holiday has two years remaining on his deal.
If you like Alexander-Walker and Jackson, they have to play. Hart certainly will play as a bundle of energy off the bench.
Van Gundy will be expected to produce immediately.
With talent, the feeling will be to post a winning record in his first season and to make the playoffs.
That is why Gentry is not here.
Though he had to go without Williamson for much of his final season and he had to endure the Anthony Davis fiasco, the lack of production in terms of reaching the playoffs ultimately doomed Gentry.
With a young team in need of gaining valuable experience, the Pelicans have turned to experience to bridge the gap.
Hopefully, the twain meets in the middle and the promise of a young but soft team turns into the production of a winning, playoff team with even more room to grow.
- < PREV Just Win Baby: 1995 NLU baseball team did just that
- NEXT > Saints-Panthers Injury Report: Michael Thomas now dealing with hamstring issue
Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…