Is Orlando winning because of or despite coach Stan Van Gundy?
On the other hand, Van Gundy’s quick wit has often brought unwanted attention and publicity. During the regular season, he got into a spat with Shaquille O’Neal. Also, being an admitted yeller can turn off the players. In the playoffs, Howard and the veteran bench boss had a high-profile spat in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals that required a sit-down meeting …
I don’t think an NBA coach should be bigger than his players.
Oh sure, the very best have ‘swag’ –Phil Jackson has his Zen thing, Pat Riley had the slicked-out hair, and Jerry Sloan still aspires to be a celebrity spokesman for John Deere. But none of these sideline bosses allowed their personal idiosyncrasies to consistently overshadow the on-court product.
In short, Jackson, Riley, and Sloan focused on the players and the game. The spotlight always took a backseat to developing strategy, managing talent, and winning.
Clearly, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy has a different philosophy. Whether intentional or not, the Ron Jeremy look-a-like consistently finds himself in the middle of controversies. So, is the Magic winning because of or despite Van Gundy?
On the one hand, Van Gundy’s confrontational style has given Orlando an identity and helped the franchise shake the Mickey Mouse label. His direct approach has rattled some sabres and challenged Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu to constantly strive for more.
On the other hand, Van Gundy’s quick wit has often brought unwanted attention and publicity. During the regular season, he got into a spat with Shaquille O’Neal. Also, being an admitted yeller can turn off the players. In the playoffs, Howard and the veteran bench boss had a high-profile spat in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals that required a sit-down meeting.
These blunders wouldn’t be such an issue if Van Gundy didn’t have to overcome history. Fair or not, Riley, his mentor turned foe, replaced him on the sideline in Miami. Rumour had it, before Riles ‘un-retired’ from the front office, the Heat players were close to rebelling.
This, of course, brings us to Van Gundy’s latest debacle. In game one of the NBA Finals, he tried fixing something that wasn’t broken by having Rafer Alston and the suddenly healthy Jameer Nelson split minutes. Alston, a trade deadline pick-up, had been starting for the injured Nelson and wasn’t happy sitting the entire second quarter.
Van Gundy should know better than to tinker with his rotation. Alston and Nelson can compete for playing time next year in training camp. For now, ‘Skip To My Lou’ has to be the starter and Nelson, who hadn’t played in four months before Friday’s contest, can have Anthony Johnson’s minutes as the backup.
Still, the criticism doesn’t faze Van Gundy. Hero or scapegoat, it doesn’t matter. He won’t change. And, regardless of his antics, you have to respect that.
Superstar coach or just a loudmouth? What are your thoughts on Van Gundy? Get at us in the comment box below. Photo courtesy of jrq1975.