Thursday , May , 10 , 2007 Oly Sandor

The Take: Jeff Van Gundy Should Let Go Of Houston Rockets

Right now, Jeff Van Gundy’s trying to decide if he wants to stay on as coach of the Houston Rockets. Forget the clauses in his contract. Van Gundy’s had his chance. He shouldn’t return. It’s time for a new coach in ‘H-town’ …

It was 1998, middle of the NBA playoffs. New York and Miami, two of sport’s biggest rivals, were locked in an intense playoff series.

Emotions spilled over. A brawl broke out. Jeff Van Gundy, New York’s coach, rushed onto the court and tried to stop the fight. Instead of separating the combatants, Van Gundy got knocked down and hung onto Alonzo Mourning’s leg for dear life.

The image of Van Gundy clinging to Mourning’s tree-trunk thigh is pretty telling. Right now, nine years later, the Rockets’ coach is clinging to something else-his job as head coach of the Houston Rockets.

He can hold press conferences. And he can take personal reflection time. But it won’t change things. Bottom line: Van Gundy’s had his shot with Houston and it’s time for another coach to take over.

Eighties basketball is in vogue and high-scoring teams rule the day. The Suns are flying. The Warriors are the new darlings of the NBA. Even contenders like San Antonio and Utah have the ability to play an up-tempo style.

Houston, however, struggles to score at the best of times. Too often, the Rockets play a slow, half-court game. With Tracy McGrady in the fold, they should be running.

This flawed strategy is Van Gundy’s fault. He won’t open things up. And he still coaches like it’s 1998, when he tried to lead Charles Oakley and the Knicks to an NBA Title by bullying opponents.

With Van Gundy as coach, Houston’s never advanced past the first round of the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if they were close to beating Utah. In fact, the Rockets should have beaten the Jazz. They had a 2-0 series lead. They had home-court advantage. And they still failed to get it done.

Unlike the brawl of 1998, Van Gundy must stop clinging to the Rockets like it’s Mourning’s leg. Let go and give another coach a chance.

Oly Sandor is hoopsvibe’s NBA analyst. Comeback every day for more of his coverage.