Everyone in the Big Easy finally has an answer to the burning question: who will coach Zion Williamson next season? The New Orleans Pelicans ended their exhaustive search for a head coach by hiring Stan Van Gundy. Yes, get ready for SVG in NOLA.
Van Gundy coached 11 full seasons in the NBA and amassed a 523-384 record with the Miami Heat (2003-06), Orlando Magic (2007-12), and Detroit Pistons (2014-18).
Van Gundy’s teams advanced to the postseason eight times in the 11 full seasons he coached.
The Pelicans will become the fourth NBA team the elder Van Gundy coached.
The Pelicans parted ways with Alvin Gentry in the offseason after they failed to advance to the postseason. The Pels appeared in the NBA Bubble as one of the numerous teams fighting for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.
Van Gundy inherits a young team, including the former #1 pick in Zion Williamson.
“He’s unique,” said Van Gundy. “That combination of size, quickness and explosive power, it really hasn’t come along.”
SVG’s teams play gritty basketball. They don’t turn the ball over much, and are always known for their stonewall defense.
According to the WestGate SuperBook in Las Vegas, Van Gundy’s hiring didn’t alter the NBA futures markets. The Pelicans are 50/1 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship.
I’m excited to join a talented New Orleans Pelicans team. It will be an honor to work with our players and to work for Mrs. Benson and David Griffin, Trajan Langdon, their staff and the great people of New Orleans. I can’t wait to talk to our players and get the process started
— Stan Van Gundy (@realStanVG) October 21, 2020
After Doc Rivers and the LA Clippers parted ways, the Pelicans were a favorite to land Rivers. In a surprise move, Rivers ended up as the new head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Once Rivers accepted the Philly job, Van Gundy was on the short-list to land the Pelicans job.
Jason Kidd was a favorite to land a head coaching job for next season. All signs pointed Kidd toward Brooklyn, but team ownership opted to give Steve Nash his first head coaching job instead. Once Kidd lost out on the Nets gig, he became the favorite to become the next head coach of the Pelicans. Then, Van Gundy edged him out.
Kidd was also on the short-list of potential hires to replace Rivers with the Clippers. However, the Clips hired from within the organization, promoting assistant coach Ty Lue to the new head coaching position in LA.
Van Gundy Clan
We often spend a significant amount of time discussing coaching trees or coaching pedigrees. In the case of Stan Van Gundy, coaching hoops is in his blood. Bill Van Gundy coached SUNY-Brockport on Long Island, NY, where Stan played for his old man.
Stan is the older brother of Jeff Van Gundy, a broadcaster who is most famous for coaching the Knicks in the 1990s after Pat Riley left NYC for Miami.
Jeff Van Gundy has heard his name mentioned in numerous NBA rumors suggesting he will return to coaching as the favorite to land the Houston Rockets job.
Both Van Gundy brothers are a part of the “Pat Riley Coaching Tree”. Both Jeff and Stan spent time learning the pro game as assistants to Riley in his post-Lakers’ years.
SVG Florida Daze
Stan Van Gundy got his first NBA job thanks to Pat Riley. When Riley’s relationship with the Knicks fractured in the mid-1990s, the Heat lured Riley by giving him more power as general manager along with a piece of the franchise. Riley wanted to hire Knicks’ assistant coach Jeff Van Gundy, but the Knicks refused to let Riley move to Miami with Jeff.
Riley joked that he didn’t want to create a new coaching staff in South Beach without a Van Gundy on his bench, so he hired Jeff’s older brother, Stan. At the time, Stan was struggling to keep the Wisconsin Badgers competitive among the elites in Big Ten basketball. After a 13-14 season in Madison, Stan packed his bags for Miami. The rest, as they say, is history. SVG has been coaching in the NBA ever since.
After spending eight seasons as an assistant coach, the Heat promoted Van Gundy after Riley retired, but retained the position of GM. Van Gundy guided the 2005 Miami Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals, but they were knocked out by the Detroit Pistons.
After the loss, there were rumors in South Beach that Riley wanted to come out of retirement to chase one more championship. Riley and SVG clashed, and Van Gundy resigned after 21 games.
Van Gundy returned to coaching with the Orlando Magic where they had four winning seasons in his five years in central Florida. SVG guided the Magic to a berth in the 2009 NBA Finals, but they lost to Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers.
Most recently, SVG struggled with a lackluster Detroit Pistons team that had just one winning season in four years. SVG’s Pistons advanced to the postseason once, but got swept in the first round in the 2016 NBA Playoffs.
After an extended hiatus, Van Gundy returns to the hardwood with Zion and the New Orleans Pelicans.