Posted by Sekou Smith
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When Shaquille O’Neal dubbed Stan Van Gundy the “Master of Panic” there weren’t many people rushing to the defense of the former Heat and current Magic head coach.
You’ve seen his high-pitched sideline tirades, the postgame sessions with the media that require therapeutic translation and the weary expressions of his players after being on the receiving end of one of Van Gundy’s verbal jabs.
The nickname, however harsh, didn’t seem too far-fetched.
But ol’ Shaq could be on the verge of eating some of his own words, or at least he’ll have to dig into his bag of moniker tricks for something new. Because Van Gundy has driven the Magic back into the Eastern Conference finals and has them poised to do something that’s never been done before — to storm back from a 3-0 series deficit to win it.
The “Master of Panic” suddenly seems like he’s masted the pressure that came with his team’s stunning stumble to start this series. Pull this Magic trick off and Van Gundy will render Shaq’s coaching opinions worthless.
It’s still a bit premature to compare Van Gundy to the legends of his profession. They still have to find a way to win Game 6 in Boston to keep this story (and their season) going.
And by no means are we excusing Van Gundy’s thin-skinned reactions to any sort of criticism, constructive or otherwise. His spat with the fellas from ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption is proof that he’s still not cured of his penchant for picking fights where there shouldn’t be any.
As far as the coaching goes, however, Van Gundy’s doing a bang-up job.
The fact that we’re still talking about the Magic, though, is an indication of the sort of resolve that Van Gundy’s team has shown. Those talking points (hard work, determination, etc.) echoed by their entire roster in the wake of that Game 5 triumph came from somewhere.
I’m guessing the “Master of Panic” had something to do with it.