The Ascent Of Stan Van Gundy

Stan Van Gundy is a man who has made mistakes. Clearly, this blanket statement alone proves me worthy of NBA analysis. Clearly, I’m hoping you pick up on my sarcasm. The now deposed coach of the Orlando Magic is now on the job hunt like most of America seems to be these days and joining him on the unemployment line is the Magic’s former General Manager, Otis Smith. Notice, however that the title of this piece refers to the “ascent” of Stan (and incidentally a pretty catchy Ben Folds tune) and the word choice is indeed intentional. For while Van Gundy and the Orlando Magic are coming off a relative trouncing at the hands of arguably the deepest team in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers, where they lost each game by an average of 14.5 points, Stan Van Gundy’s resume may read better than recent events would lead you to believe.

Here is a man with a career regular season winning percentage of .641, who has improved every team he’s ever coached, never missed the playoffs with exception of the ’05-’06 where he (pushed out or not) resigned from Miami, and led the Magic to the Finals in 2009. Now, the logical counter to that argument is to point out the tools he had to work with. A just blossoming Dwayne Wade and a productive Shaquille O’Neal in Miami and, of course, a center dominant enough on offense to warrant an offense specifically designed for him to pound the point or kick it out for an open three, and one of the best paint defenders this league has seen in recent years, Dwight Howard. As much as I empathize with the notion that Stan would be nothing without his players, can you name me a coach who would?

Before you go thinking I’ve reserved the front seat of this guy’s bandwagon, I would be remissed if I didn’t point out some flaws in a coach whom, to this point, I’ve been making out to be some sort of modern-day Adonis in the very, very, figurative sense of the name. The most important and, in some cases, toughest aspect of coaching on any level is managing a locker room. It is essential to success for a coach to keep their players engaged and on the same page with each other and the goal at hand. A coach must, in the simplest sense, show his players the big picture and help them take the necessary steps to make that picture a reality. For whatever reason, Stan Van Gundy seems to struggle with that.

Whether or not you believe Pat Riley pushed Stan out of Miami, it’s clear he left South Beach about as unceremoniously as LeBron James came to it. Shaquille O’Neal, who played under Stan in Miami referred to him as a “master of panic”, essentially saying that he was unfit to coach when the pressure was on. Whether or not that’s true is all a matter of opinion and not really worth breaking down, but while Van Gundy’s Magic have never gotten over the hump, I can honestly say I’ve never once considered the Magic of this era the best team in the East, much less the league, at the start of the season. Also, I can think of a great many coaches who’ve never quite reached the promised land despite their best efforts in Jerry Sloan, Rick Adleman, and George Karl. Am I putting Van Gundy in the same class as those coaches whom I hold in such adulation? No, but I am saying that there’s a compromise to be found between being a “master of panic” and simply not having the talent needed to win. More on that later.

Of course, most recently and perhaps most obviously, as we recently heard from Van Gundy himself, he and Dwight Howard were not all seeing eye to eye regarding the future of the Magic franchise, and it cost Stan his job. Make no mistake, Stan Van Gundy’s disclosure to the media of private talks within the organization concerning his future with the team and his relationship is an egregious error in judgment on his part and made for one of the most awkward moments in television since CNN anchorwoman Contessa Brewer mixed up her reverends. Stan Van Gundy’s passion and candor is as respectable as it is destructive and that moment, above all things, seemed to signify the need for change in Orlando. Up until a couple of months ago, I may have been inclined to agree with the collective majority and call for Van Gundy’s head on a platter. Again, in the very, very figurative sense of the phrase, but Orlando’s showing against the Pacers made me rethink my position and may sway yours as well.

Scribing you recounting of what went on in the series would be as much a waste of my time to write as it would be yours to read. I can only assume that if you dig roundball enough to peruse this less than condensed column, you’re largely familiar with the fact that the Magic lost in five games to the Pacers and, while impressively winning Game 1 on the road and pushing Game 4 to overtime in defeat, the Howard-less Magic were outmatched by the Pacers, who would go on to at least rattle the Heat. The results of those Magic-Pacer games were not so much what caught my eye, but the fashion in which Orlando met defeat.

What I saw, with the exception of Game 3, was a team full of desire and grit and while I concede that there’s no team that’s going to walk into the playoffs and roll over and play dead, the passion and heart I saw out of Orlando was not indicative of a team without their star player for the forseable future and at odds with their coach. Now, anyone who says (and there are a couple) that the Magic are better off without Dwight Howard is a little silly and likely a little bitter, but there is no denying that something had to be done to quell the fires of Dublin… I mean, Orlando and I do believe the right move was made, but that move was not the release of Stan Van Gundy, but the mutual decision to part ways with Otis Smith.

Think of it this way, Howard’s absence aside, every pregame telecast during the Indy/Orlando series was centered around how far Big Baby Davis could take this Magic team. You don’t have to be a student of the game to know that there’s something wrong with that outlook. I mean no disrespect to Glen Davis. I consider Big Baby and J.J. Redick two of the most quintessential role players in the league that any team would be fortunate to have come off the bench for them, but under no circumstance should they be the focal point of your offense. Consider that when Dwight Howard’s future with Orlando was still in doubt, it fell on Otis Smith make sure he surrounded Dwight with the kind of players that he would want to stick around and play with. Otis Smith responded by grabbing an over the hill Vince Carter, a lukewarm acquisition of Jason Richardson, a re-acquisition of Hedo Turkoglu (who was coming off two woeful seasons in Toronto and Phoenix), and a solid, but not game changing pick up of Glen Davis (which you can argue is a wash considering they gave up Bass to get him), not to mention losing Marcin Gortat in the process. Obviously, I named acquisitions in a pretty random order, but my point is that at no point did Otis Smith shake up this team enough to give Dwight Howard or Stan Van Gundy a chance of returning to the finals and it seems to me that Stan kind of took the fall for it.

Again, you can’t overvalue the importance of a coach’s chemestry with his team, so maybe this firing isn’t all as premature as I’m making it out to be. I’m simply humbly submitting that Otis Smith’s departure from Orlando is much more apt business decision than Stan Van Gundy’s firing, but if the past is any indication of the future, Van Gundy will be back on his feet in some capacity sooner rather than later. I dare say the Indiana series showed me that the success in Orlando had a bit more to do with the magic of Stan Van Gundy than I initially gave him credit for and the Magic’s shortcomings a bit more to do with lack of personel than something more personal.

19 thoughts on “The Ascent Of Stan Van Gundy

  1. This novel of War & Peace, is on here, WHY? Who gives a crap, about Stan Van Gundy? Half of my brain cells actually died, in the 4 hours that it took me to read this? That’s time wasted, that I can never retrieve. JEESH!

  2. stan van gondy is a twit with a mousetache. if superman wasn’t answering to an annoying little noskilled leprekaun his whoel career, that team wouldnt be in so much trouble like they are now.

  3. why do you think the the heat got rid of him? he was like a bad neighbor that didnt know when to stfu up. eventually pat riley wisely couldnt take it anymore, and got rid of him to save d’wades future in miami…and now theyre in the finals! the magic realize the mans no good, and now hes out. prob too late to save howard though

  4. BirdoBeamen I was wondering the same thing. Not only is this news older than my Great Grand Mother but this has no relevance of the 76ers in anyway. I could see if he added “Will the Sixers be interested in Van Gundy if Collins walks away” but no. This was strickly about Van Gundy on a Philly Blog Site.

  5. paulman are you stupid? i already told you all who is stun van gundy before….hes any anoyying muostached misfit of a man who shouldnt be a head coach. im just glad iggy got the better of him in game 1 of the 2008 series!

  6. 109876ers, is that you JON HART? You changed your screen name, didn’t you? Did Ron Jeremy…. I mean, Van Gundy, cheat with your wife, or something? BTW, did you ever hear of sarcasm? I think Paul knows who Van Gundy is. Lighten up.

  7. dcar have you ever had a person that you look and just hate their face? and once you hate the face you see all of their inner flaws exposed and make the said hated face that much more hateable? yeaaaaah, thats whats going on here. and i dont like sarcasm, its a waste of a comment. kind of like yours.

  8. 109876ers, do you hate that face, that looks back at you in the mirror? Because you should! You don’t know him, nor should you hate anyone. If he didn’t do anything personal to you, what’s your beef!? YOU HATE HIS FACE & SEE ALL HIS INNER FLAWS!?!? YOU CAN READ MINDS, AURA’S, THOUGHTS & SOULS, HUH!? You need some prayer time, my brother. God don’t like ugly. There are bigger things to worry about, than non-factors & people with no bearing on your personal life. Get a life.

  9. dcar, are you stupider than paulman? i didn’t say i was some kind of physic, i said i can tell instantly about people, its a gift. i see his mushtache combined with his eyes, and his bald spot and i can tell he’s the type of person you would not want to be around for even a couple minutes. and wanna know how im right? just look at his career. as i stated before, pat riley saw what kind of man vun gandy was, and cut the cord reallll freakin quick as part of the plan to keep dwade their long term.

    and now the magic have seen the same thing. they saw what his presence has done to dwight howards mindset, realized the terrible mistkae they made hiring a coach that chases players away and doesnt win, and finally gave the thief his walkign papers.

    you cant over look the facts….”brother”. lol @ you

  10. 109876ers, if that’s really your gift, looking at someone’s grill and able to determine what type of person they are, good thing you can’t see the mugs of the posters here, one scary place, what would you think of paulman, what kind of bad mojo his face imparts?

  11. well if his words are any indicator, i’d say he’s some kind of degenerate…i mean seriosuly, how have you never heard of stan von gunsdy? i mean i guess its possible if you shield your eyes from the glory of the nba year to year, but still…i’m not impressed by what ive seen so far. if i could see an actual picture of the man, i could tell for sure.

    got a fb paulman? this could be your chance for redemption

  12. Hey loser above, I don’t need any redemption from you or anyone else here.. Also, I am not too difficult to locate on FB and probably have forgotten more about Sports than You’ll ever know, but who cares about Gundy, you or me anyways..

  13. Dcar aka freddie mitchell obsession with JH continues.. now bc i took a few days off gcobb.com due to the fact that i have a life to live he thinks i changed my name? Haha i don’t have enough time in a day to even consider doing that..

  14. Jon, you ain’t worth an obsession. I could give a rats @$$ about a stupid, imbecilic, human being as yourself! You so many stupid, factless, mindless, ill-informed, garbage, that I can’t help but say something to your immature, goofy @$$! Glad to see we have another WHACK JOB ABOVE, to join you, Schill.

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