On Tuesday afternoon, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Stan Van Gundy was a surprise finalist for the New Orleans Pelicans head coaching vacancy.
The New Orleans Pelicans were the first NBA bubble team to fire their head coach, sending Alvin Gentry packing in mid-August. They were far from the last as playoff team after playoff team fired their coach, creating a cyclonic coaching carousel full of accomplished candidates vying for those newly available positions. For the Pelicans, a surprise candidate recently entered the fray in the form of Stan Van Gundy.
The former Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons head coach was announced as a finalist for the job via a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Tuesday afternoon. While Van Gundy hasn’t actively pursued a head coaching job since being fired by the Detroit Pistons two seasons ago, he’s stayed involved in the game as both a studio analyst with ESPN and a color commenter with TNT this past season.
He was one of the most enjoyable media personalities in the recent bubble, and depending on your personal political stance, his social media presence is an absolute delight as well.
Van Gundy is an accomplished head coach with an NBA Finals appearance under his belt, and his 523-384 regular season record speaks for itself. If Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin is looking for an experienced coach, Van Gundy can absolutely be the right man for the job. However, there are some concerns regarding his recent track record, in particular surrounding his tenure with the Pistons.
When he was in Detroit, he had the dual role of head coach and president of basketball operations. Considering the wealth of proof out there that it’s simply a task too tall for anybody, it’s no surprise that he was one of the last to try to take on those entwined but conflicting duties. He struck out in the draft multiple times, and his focus on developing the prospects he drafted was virtually non-existent.
Certainly, the fact that players like Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson didn’t pan out can be chalked up as much to bad luck in the draft as poor development from Van Gundy and his staff, but at a certain point, a concerning track record does start to rear its ugly head. This could be a significant issue in New Orleans, where the core of the roster is very young and in need of a steady hand to lead them through the troubled waters of the NBA.
Between Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Zion Williamson, the New Orleans Pelicans have a young group just oozing potential, and hopefully, Griffin and Van Gundy are able to see eye to eye on how to best support them as their careers flourish.
It’s not that Stan Van Gundy can’t develop young players, of course. He coached Dwyane Wade for the first three years of his career with the Heat, and Wade turned out great. The concern is simply that the recent track record hasn’t been there. However, Van Gundy has been out of the game long enough. It’s time to get him back on the sidelines in the NBA, and the New Orleans Pelicans could be a most intriguing destination indeed.