Posts Tagged ‘Stan Van Gundy’

History Says Lakers Play Long Odds

History says the Lakers probably had to do something to save a season that was slipping away.

History also says that in making the switch from Mike Brown to Mike D’Antoni they might just as well be expecting to hit one of those half-court shots to win a car than to be hosting a victory parade next June.

Yeah, the odds are long.

In the previous 66 years, only three in-season coaching changes have produced an immediate championship. Then again, twice it happened for the Lakers, in 1980 and 1982.

However, if the focus is a little farther down the line — and D’Antoni is the right choice — the payoff could be down the line. There have been seven different replacement coaches and eight teams that eventually claimed NBA titles.

1956-57 — Alex Hannum, St. Louis Hawks — The Hall of Famer is more popularly known for leading Wilt Chamberlain and the Sixers in 1967, ending the string of Bill Russell and the Celtics at eight titles in a row. But Hannum replaced Red Holzman and interim coach Slater Martin as player/coach midway through the season. The Hawks lost to the Celtics in The Finals that year. But when he retired and went to the bench full-time, they beat Boston to win it all the following year. He was the only coach to beat Boston in the playoffs during Russell’s 13-year career.

1977-78 — Lenny Wilkens, Seattle SuperSonics — The Hall of Famer took over the reins for Bob Hopkins after the Sonics got off to a woeful 5-17 start that season. He put the spark back in the game with an 11-1 start to his regime and took the Sonics to The Finals, where they lost to the Bullets in seven games. The team featuring Dennis Johnson, Jack Sikma and Fred Brown came back to claim Seattle’s only championship by beating the Bullets for the 1979 crown.

1977-78 — Billy Cunningham, Philadelphia 76ers — Gene Shue’s talent-laden Sixers were upset by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1977 and then staggered out of the gate the following season with a 2-4 record. A Philly favorite as a Hall of Fame player, Cunningham got the first coaching experience of his career when he took over the controls. The Sixers with Julius Erving lost to the Bullets in the Eastern Conference finals in his first year, were beaten by the Lakers in the NBA Finals in 1980 and 1982, but finally broke through and it all when Moses Malone led a 4-0 sweep of L.A. in 1983.

1979-80 — Paul Westhead, L.A. Lakers – First-year NBA assistant coach Paul Westhead moved into the main seat 14 games into the season after head coach Jack McKinney suffered a serious head injury in a fall from a bicycle. The Shakespearean scholar got to cap of an amazing debut season when a fellow rookie named Magic Johnson jumped center, then piled up 42 points, 15 rebound and seven assists in the Game 6 Finals clincher at Philadelphia.

1981-82 & 2005-06 — Pat Riley, L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat – When Magic became disenchanted with Westhead and nudged him toward the door 11 games into the season, the Lakers plucked the former player turned broadcaster from behind the radio microphone to begin a Hall of Fame career on the bench. The untested Riley guided the Lakers to another NBA Finals win over Philadelphia, then won three more titles in L.A. in 1985, 1987 and 1988. After his cross country move took him to New York and then Miami, Riley the G.M. replaced Stan Van Gundy following an 11-10 start in 2005-06. Seven months later, Riley and Dwyane Wade for the Heat out of an 0-2 hole to beat the Mavericks in The Finals.

1991-92 — Rudy Tomjanovich, Houston Rockets — A year after he was named Coach of the Year, Don Chaney’s Rockets were stuck in a 26-26 rut and he was fired on Feb. 18. A reluctant Tomjanovich, then a team scout and assistant coach, had to be talked into taking the job. A season later he became the first coach in NBA history to take his team from the lottery to a division title in his first full season on the job. The local legend Rudy T then put enough spot-up shooters around Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon to produce back-to-back championships for Houston in 1994 and 1995.

1996-97 — Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs – It was 18 games into the season when G.M. Popovich pulled the rug and fired coach Bob Hill. It was a move that was considered presumptuous and unpopular in some corners of town. But all was forgiven when he took a team with David Robinson and second-year forward Tim Duncan to the championship in 1999. Since that time, he has added Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to the lineup, three more titles and the beloved and cantankerous “Pop” is almost as much a part San Antonio lore as the Alamo.

Will Phil Jackson Follow Pat Riley And Open A New Chapter?

If Phil Jackson heeds the “We want Phil!” chants dropped like an anvil by the Staples Center crowd Friday night, the Zen Master will follow again in the footsteps of that other multi-title-winning Lakers coach — Pat Riley.

Rewind to the 2005-06 season. Riley’s return to the Miami Heat bench 21 games in doesn’t mirror the current circumstance that has fallen into Phil’s lap, but it’s not all that dissimilar either.

No, Jackson isn’t the president of the Lakers organization as Riley was and remains with the Heat when the then-60-year-old Riley horse-collared Stan Van Gundy into resigning nine days before Christmas.

Still, Jackson’s aura eternally twinkles above the Lakers franchise like a magical puff of — oh, you get the picture. Seven years ago Riley couldn’t resist the urge to return to the bench and coach a team he built not only to contend, but to win. The question in front of Jackson, now 67, is does he have the irresistible urge to return?

The suspense is palpable as the stage is spectacularly set for a hero’s return to save the day.

In the summer of 2004, Riley acquired Shaquille O’Neal in his divorce from Kobe Bryant, seeking a championship companion for his own young star, Dwyane Wade. Van Gundy and the boys won 59 games and advanced to the East finals against Detroit, only to lose Game 7 at home.

When the Heat sluggishly opened the ’05-’06 season 11-10, Riley returned, and the rest is history.

His team won 41 of the next 61 games, knocked off the Pistons in six games in the East finals and then oversaw one of the more remarkable comebacks in Finals history, rallying from a near-certain 3-0 hole to beat the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

With Kobe running short on time to capture a sixth title and catch Jackson’s original star pupil with the Chicago Bulls, the Lakers seized the offseason, trading for the second coming of Superman, three-time defensive player of the year Dwight Howard, and sure-fire hall of fame point guard Steve Nash. With Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, the quintet is easily the most decorated starting unit in basketball.

The results, 1-12 counting the preseason, shoved the bespectacled, mouth-agape Mike Brown out the door before Veterans Day.

It’s seems apparent: the job is Phil’s if he wants it. Other candidates are out there. Mike D’Antoni changed the face of offense in the NBA and, if not for injuries and bad luck, just might have won a title or two with Nash in Phoenix. The great Jerry Sloan is also available.

Yet there is really only one man for this job. The only man with 11 rings. The only man larger than even the star-studded starting five he’d oversee.

Riley did what he believed he had to do, and he achieved the fairy-tale ending.

We’ll soon know if Jackson wants to re-open the book and begin a new chapter. He’s had a long and brilliant career.

Happy endings aren’t always guaranteed.

Rounding Up Usual (And Unusual) Suspects For Lakers Job

Considering how much of what the Los Angeles Lakers do is driven by entertainment, more than any of the other NBA teams, there’s a must-see moment waiting to happen as the team scouts for a replacement for Mike Brown, fired Friday as head coach after a disappointing 1-4 start.

The Buss family that owns the team ought to bring in Stan Van Gundy for an interview, then set up hidden cameras for the moment when it leaks to the players.

The list of “Who’s” was instantaneous Friday, compiled in pieces or in full on the Internet almost as swiftly as word of Brown’s firing spread. Here is a quickie list of candidates with HTB assessments of their pros and cons:

Van Gundy No Fan Of Flop Rule

Stan Van Gundy has a history of opposing the rule of law in regards to the rules handed down by the NBA. He did so as coach of the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic and still does in his new role as an analyst and partner of the NBC Sports Network.

The latest mandate to draw Van Gundy’s ire is the league’s new flopping rule. Van Gundy told Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch he thinks the flop rule will flop terribly in both its aim and execution:

“I think the attempt to try to address it is a good thing but I don’t see the rule having much effect,” said Van Gundy, the former Magic coach who is transitioning this season to broadcasting with NBC Sports Network and Dial Global radio. “First of all, I think the only ones that you will see penalized are very, very egregious flops. I’d be surprise if it even got to one a game, and I think anybody who watches basketball knows that there is far more than one every game.

“And I don’t even think this is the NBA’s fault. I just think it’s impossible the way the rule is written where they can ‘crack down’ on it. I think they will make sort of a cursory attempt, and make it look like they are trying to do something about it.”

Van Gundy did exonerate the league to a degree, admitting that it’s nearly impossible to crack down on the problem with the way the rule is written. But do you think he has a point?


Howard, Van Gundy Join Forces Again … For Seminole County School System

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Their names will be linked in Orlando sports lore forever, former Magic superstar center Dwight Howard and former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.

But it won’t always be about their messy divorce and departure from the Magic. On at least one account, the former player and coach will come together to help bolster the future for students in the Orlando area, the Seminole County School system to be exact.

It turns out that Howard and Van Gundy do have a common interest outside of winning a Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Diametrically opposed on so many issues, Howard and Van Gundy are political allies (the combatants in contests across the nation in this election year need to take notice) when it comes to helping preserve the property tax base that helps fund the school system.

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel informed us all of this rather intriguing arrangement between these two men:

If you read my column last week, you know Van Gundy is the chairman of a political group in Seminole County called Citizens for Preservation of Property Values. The goal of the group is to increase property taxes in Seminole County to help preserve the area’s traditionally strong public school system — a system that has been decimated by $73 million in budget cuts over the past five years. In the Nov. 6 general election, Seminole voters will decide whether to approve a 1-mill increase in property taxes for four years beginning a year from now. The increase would bring in as much as $25 million annually to the school district.

Van Gundy says Dwight, who was recently traded to the Lakers, is going to lend some financial backing  to the cause.

“Dwight has pledged his support,” Van Gundy said Monday during an interview on our Open Mike radio show on 740 The Game. “He’s a resident of Seminole County, and he’s keeping his house here. I think his history will show that he’s had great concern for kids in the Central Florida community. With him still living here, we asked him to help and he didn’t hesitate.”

Surprisingly to some, both Stan and Dwight say they are on good terms and have been communicating regularly over the last several weeks. Van Gundy even texted Howard and wished him good luck after he was traded to L.A.


Brown Embraces Lakers’ Sky-High Hopes

HANG TIME, Texas — You don’t have to warn Mike Brown about expectations next season with the Lakers. This is, after all, the guy who lived with the would-be championship burden of LeBron James sitting on his back in Cleveland.

Sure, the Lakers have added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, among others, to their roster this summer. Sure, he can feel those 16 previous championships staring down from the rafters and the record books.

But in an in-depth and quite interesting Q & A with Brian Kamenetzky of’s Land ‘O Lakers blog, the coach says, in short, bring it on:

“That’s what I like about this job,” Brown said. “The level of expectations that we have as an organization doesn’t sit with just making the playoffs. Every year, ownership and management want to compete for a championship. As a coach, I don’t know why you would want to be put in any other situation, unless you’re just happy getting a paycheck or being a coach in the NBA. I want to be put in a situation where year in, year out I have an opportunity to win. You know? In my opinion, that’s my dream and should be the dream of anybody that’s a competitor. This situation warrants that.”

In his first season with the NBA’s most high-profile coaching job, Brown inherited a talented, but flawed, team that was never able to develop consistency during the post-lockout schedule and may have maxed out its potential just by getting to the West semis against Oklahoma City. That won’t fly this time around, especially when many have always dubbed the Lakers as the team to beat — ahead of the defending champion Heat and Western Conference champion Thunder.

“Everybody says that — expectations, expectations, pressure, pressure, pressure. Pressure to me occurs if you’re not prepared, and we’ll be prepared.

“Having said that, yes, you understand people’s thoughts and expectations, but I’m telling you this: I don’t think there was anybody last year that expected us and said it was OK that we got knocked out in the second round, or that we didn’t win the West. I don’t think there’s one person in L.A. that can honestly say they didn’t expect more. (more…)

Van Gundy Says Rose May Flee Chicago

HANG TIME, TexasLeBron James to Miami. Chris Paul to the L.A. Clippers. Dwight Howard to the L.A. Lakers.

So who’s next to spin the wheel of free agent fortune and plot his escape to greener pastures?

Would you believe Derrick Rose?

That’s the latest white-hot offering from former Magic coach-turned-media-flamethrower Stan Van Gundy, whom we’ve got to figure owns considerable stock in a Molotov cocktail factory or is auditioning to replace Mrs. O’Leary’s cow as the most famous fire-starter in Chicago history.

Speaking on AM-740’s The Game in Orlando, the former Magic coach sent an ill breeze through the Windy City by suggesting that there would come a time when Rose would look to leave Chicago.

“I think the interesting one coming up in the future is going to be Derrick Rose,” Van Gundy said. “I think Derrick Rose is a great, great representative of our league, and he’s a great player. And he’s got good players around him, very good players around him, but if (the Bulls) can’t get another star there for him is he eventually going to look around and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to work this out on my own and I’ve got to find somehow to get somewhere else so that I will have a chance to play with another star.’ The league has changed.”

Rose, who is rehabbing the torn ACL he suffered in Game 1 of the playoffs against Philadelphia last spring, has never even hinted at making a head-fake toward the door. In fact, since signing his five-year, $90-million contract extension, he has repeatedly said that he wants and plans to finish his career in Chicago. What’s more, in the past two seasons with coach Tom Thibodeau at the helm, Rose has won an MVP award and twice led his team to the NBA’s best regular-season record.

In his defense, Van Gundy was talking about a possible future scenario if Rose were unable to win a championship with the pieces that can be put around him in Chicago and was using the 2012 championship by the Heat as an example. (more…)

Van Gundy Keeps On Blasting Magic

HANG TIME, Texas – Are there any bridges left in Orlando? If so, Stan Van Gundy will probably burn them by tomorrow.

Dwight Howard’s former coach and sparring partner continued his carpet bombing of the franchise that fired him by calling CEO Alex Martins naive and said he had “no knowledge of the game” during Mike Bianchi‘s radio show on 740 AM in Orlando:

“It’s a typical lack of understanding from someone who has no sports knowledge, who has never coached or played, who has never been in a lockeroom….it’s a naivete,” Van Gundy said of Martins Monday morning on Mike Bianchi’s show on 740 AM.

“….I’ll stand on the relationships with players based on the results we got.

“I think Alex’s comments are based on the fact that Dwight and maybe others didn’t like me…and thinking somehow that’s important.”

Nobody will ever nominate Van Gundy for a post in the diplomatic corp, so the fact that he’s been forthcoming and blunt in the aftermath of being let go by the Magic is hardly shocking. Truth is, in a world of professional sports that has become increasingly corporate, clandestine and, frankly, often quite boring, StanVan and his willingness to react like an exposed nerve end is as welcome as a cleansing summer rain.

Who can forget the scene last spring when Van Gundy had just finished telling a throng of reporters that Howard had asked to have him fired just before the disgruntled center walked up and placed an arm around his shoulder to act buddy-buddy?

It was just last week when Hang Time noted Van Gundy’s previous outburst on 790 The Ticket in Miami. (more…)

Van Gundy: Howard Trade Mishandled

From staff reports

Practically from the start of the public unraveling of the Dwight Howard era in Orlando, Stan Van Gundy didn’t pull many punches about his view on the deterioration between the Magic’s former All-Star big man and the powers that be (including himself). Perhaps no interview summed up Van Gundy’s honest view on the situation than his awkward-yet-telling pre-practice interview in April where he revealed that reports of Howard wanting him fired were true (which were then followed by Howard awkwardly sidling up to and being chummy with Van Gundy … and then having to deny Van Gundy’s statements to the media).

Van Gundy was fired shortly after the Magic’s first-round playoff ouster to the Pacers (as was former GM Otis Smith) as the team began what would become Phase I of its lengthy rebuilding plan. All that aside, it’s not entirely surprising that Van Gundy didn’t hold back when talking to 790 The Ticket in Miami with Jonathan Zaslow and Hoch about the end of the Howard era, the opt-in saga with Dwight and more:

How do you feel about the fallout from everything that has happened in Orlando? Are you frustrated? Relieved?

“Well I’d like to have a job. That’d be nice. That’s not a great feeling. We just got caught up in a bad situation and our organization didn’t handle it very well. Because of that I would say we probably deserve a lot of what happened as an organization and certainly not the other players. I thought those guys…I felt badly for them, a group that worked hard and was very professional all year long and didn’t deserve everything that happened, but from our organization especially the people at the very top it just wasn’t handled very well, so you get what you deserve.”

Did you go home and say I can’t believe how bizarre this is being played out with Dwight Howard?

“No. Not really. Look there’s always something going on in the NBA. I think when you are in the season you are just sort of dealing with things day-to-day and the next practice and the next game and everything else, so no there is always issues. That was our issue this year and we dealt with it. Quite honestly we were dealing with it very well with everything that was going on until Dwight Howard went out and obviously we lost our best player. We were playing very well. We had the 3rd best record in the East and the 5th best record in the league and we’re playing well. Then when he [Dwight Howard] went down quite honestly we struggled. He was sort of our guy and we didn’t play as well after that, but I thought we were still pretty competitive in everything else. It wasn’t as bad inside our team and inside the locker room as it was out in the media.”


If Jameer’s Back, Is Dwight Out?

Used to be, when a point guard re-upped to continue setting up the best center in basketball, it was a joyous occasion for both sides. The little man would keep playing with an ideal finisher for his passes, while the big man would stick with a playmaker he’s known, in this case, since they both arrived in the NBA eight years earlier.

Once upon a time, that’s how Jameer Nelson’s reported agreement Thursday to re-sign with the Orlando Magic would have looked too, strengthening his connection with Dwight Howard. But that fairy tale has fluttered away, and Nelson’s return looks more like another sign of Howard’s certain departure. He reportedly will sign a three-year deal, the dollar amount so far undisclosed, after averaging 11.9 points and 5.7 assists in 57 appearances.

The combo of Nelson out front and Howard down low once was vital to the Magic’s ambitions; they got to the 2009 Finals and reached the Eastern Conference finals a year later. But like many of Howard’s relationships in Orlando, his dealings with Nelson appeared to sour from the All-Star center’s self-indulgent embrace of his options and clout via impending free agency.