Jeff Van Gundy: The Pelicans Ideal Coaching Candidate


ESPN’s Marc Stein broke the news on Friday that former NBA head coach and current NBA broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy had officially expressed interest in the Pelicans head coaching position.

Van Gundy is the third official candidate for the job now, after Alvin Gentry and Tom Thibodeau.

Since being let go by the Rockets after the 2006-2007 season, Van Gundy has maintained his position in the broadcaster’s booth.

Time and time again, his name has come up when coaches were being fired throughout the league. And each time, without fail, he preached his desire to remain a broadcaster.

But coaching Anthony Davis is as special an opportunity a coach can get: just ask Alvin Gentry. And Jeff Van Gundy may be the best man for the job.

Like Thibodeau, Van Gundy has a history of defensively successful teams.

During his time in New York and Houston his teams consistently sat among the league’s best in defensive rating. A scheme that has proven successful in the past would be a breath of fresh air for Pelicans team that has not cracked the top twenty in three seasons.

The league has certainly evolved in the eight seasons since Van Gundy last coached. However, many traits that define modern success in the NBA like higher three point attempts were being instilled in Houston by Van Gundy himself.

During the 2005-2006 season, the Rockets finished 29th in offensive rating and 11th in three point attempt rate. That years team was buoyed by the 6th stingiest defense in the league, but there was definitely a ton of room to improve.

The amount of growth from that season into the 2006-2007 season is remarkable. Their offensive rating jumped from 29th to 15th and three point attempt rate rose from 11th all the way to first.

Naturally, this enhanced offensive execution would result in a defensive decline right? Nope. The defense ranked 3rd in the league, and the Rockets won 52 games.

It is somewhat ironic that Van Gundy was fired by the new Houston GM Daryl Morey.

Nov 13, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; ESPN broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Morey has built his team (which is playing Warriors in the Western Conference Finals) with a similar mentality that Van Gundy was pushing. Whatever the reason may be, Jeff Van Gundy is no stranger to the analytics that make today’s NBA hum.

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The Pelicans have the talent to lead the league in offense.

They were in the top ten all year this past season despite many struggles on that end. While the offense may not be as exciting as one that Alvin Gentry may bring to the table, Van Gundy would surely put an efficient system into place. It will be up to the players to adjust their play styles to the system (meaning no more long twos from you, Tyreke Evans!)

Getting Jeff Van Gundy to leave his comfortable position as a broadcaster will likely take a hefty sum.

April 18, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; ESPN broadcaster Mark Jackson (left), broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy (center), and broadcaster Mike Breen (right) talk before game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs between the Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Pelicans at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

However, it will probably not be as much that Tom Thibodeau would want, especially if the Pelicans had to give up more than just money to get him (since Thibodeau is still under contract in Chicago, the Bulls will likely ask for draft pick compensation like the Celtics did with Doc Rivers).

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Picking the right coach is a critical step in the development of this team.

Jeff Van Gundy has a brilliant basketball mind that is consistently open to change. His willingness to adapt to the situations that arise around him are icing on the cake, and is a perfect compliment to Pelicans star Anthony Davis.

Not even Davis knows how much more he can grow as a player. Van Gundy sees the potential growth in not only Davis but this entire team. If he did not, he would not have made himself available for the job.

The Pelicans accomplished their playoff goal this past season, which was fantastic. But they cannot stop there.

Now that they have gotten their feet wet in the postseason, it is time to think bigger. And Jeff Van Gundy is the ideal candidate to make those championship dreams a reality…..

Next: Pelicans to Interview Alvin Gentry for Head Coaching Position