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Stan Van Gundy takes over as coach of Pelicans

From NBA Twitter and media reports

Oct 22, 2020 1:42 PM ET

Stan Van Gundy last coached in the NBA during the 2017-18 season.

The New Orleans Pelicans have made it official, hiring veteran NBA coach Stan Van Gundy to become their next coach. The news originally broke on Wednesday afternoon via multiple reports and was confirmed shortly thereafter by Van Gundy himself via Twitter.

Van Gundy had been serving as an NBA analyst for Turner Sports before agreeing to this deal. Prior to that, Van Gundy spent 12 seasons as an NBA coach from 2003-18, serving in that role with the Miami Heat (2003-06), Orlando Magic (2007-12) and Detroit Pistons (2014-18). Van Gundy was an assistant coach with the Heat from 1995-2003 before taking over as coach. 

“We are delighted to welcome Stan, his wife Kim and their family to the New Orleans Pelicans,” Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said in a statement Thursday. “Stan’s track record of success as a head coach speaks for itself. His ability to teach while building genuine relationships was one of his many strengths that drew us to him. We feel like we are hiring one of the most accomplished leaders and authentic human beings in the NBA.”

In an interview with Bleacher Report, Van Gundy said he spoke with Griffin -- also a former Turner Sports NBA analyst -- shortly after New Orleans was eliminated from the Orlando season-restart bubble. He then met with Griffin, Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon and vice president Swin Cash three times before accepting the offer on Wednesday.

"I always knew that I had a desire to coach [again] if the situation was right," Van Gundy told Bleacher Report. "I wasn't trying to get my name in on every job. I wasn't calling my agent about every job. This one was one that I thought was a good fit on both sides, so I was very interested in it. ... I guess deep down, I'm always a coach. When the right situation came, I was happy to be involved in it."

The Pelicans fired coach Alvin Gentry in early August after he served as New Orleans' coach for the previous five seasons. New Orleans went 30-42 last season, finishing with just two victories in its final eight games despite the presence of top overall draft choice Zion Williamson and first-time All-Star Brandon Ingram in the lineup until the club was eliminated from playoff contention with two games to play.

New Orleans started 2019-20 at 6-22 and labored through a franchise record 13-game losing streak as Williamson missed the first 44 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery. The Pelicans rallied back into contention for a playoff berth and were virtually at full health when the season resumed in central Florida in July after a hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

 
Stan Van Gundy dissects Zion Williamson's game in an NBA TV segment.

The Pelicans had three starters this season -- Williamson, Ingram and Lonzo Ball -- who were younger than 24 and had no playoff experience. Two other regulars -- Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander Walker -- were also 2019 first-round Draft picks. And the Pelicans have a slew of Draft picks still to come from last year’s trade of Anthony Davis to the Lakers.

As for Williamson, Van Gundy told Bleacher Report he's looking forward to coaching the phenom.

"He's unique. That combination of size, quickness and explosive power, it really hasn't come along," Van Gundy said. "People were trying to make the comparison to LeBron or to Charles Barkley, and that's probably as close as you'll get. But he's unique. He's not really those guys. LeBron's always been a primary ball-handler, point guard, point forward, whatever you want to call him. Barkley was maybe a closer analogy to Zion."

Per multiple reports, what separated Van Gundy from the pack of other potential names for New Orleans' vacancy was his ability to craft young talent as well as his history of building top defensive teams in the NBA. In Miami, Van Gundy's teams never ranked lower than 10th in Defensive Rating (103.4 in 2005-06), his Orlando team ranked in the top 5 in Defensive Rating for three straight seasons (2008-11) and the Pistons improved from 25th in Defensive Rating before his arrival (2013-14) to a top-10 defensive team in his last two seasons.

Van Gundy has coached 907 games in his career, amassing a 523-384 record and led the Magic to The Finals in 2009. His offensive game plan around center Dwight Howard was instrumental in Orlando reaching The Finals. Howard became a Kia MVP candidate under Van Gundy's tutelage and won his three consecutive Kia Defensive Player of the Year awards (2008-11) while playing for Van Gundy.

Additionally, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis enjoyed their lone All-Star seasons under Van Gundy (2008-09) while reserve Ryan Anderson was named Kia Most Improved Player as a player under Van Gundy (2011-12). From 2007-11, Van Gundy’s Magic teams finished in the top five each season in plus/minus, and top 10 each season in 3-point shooting, offensive and defensive rating.

As coach of the Heat, Van Gundy went 112-73 as Miami transitioned into a new era with young phenom Dwyane Wade. Before the 2004-05 season, the Heat traded for former Kia MVP winner Shaquille O'Neal in a blockbuster swap with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Heat reached the Eastern Conference finals where they lost to the Pistons and, after an 11-10 start in 2005-06, Van Gundy was fired and his boss, current Heat president Pat Riley, replaced him as coach. 

In Detroit, Van Gundy went 152-176 over four years as Detroit's head coach and president of basketball operations with only one playoff appearance -- a 4-0 first-round loss to Cleveland in 2016 -- to show for it. He engineered the trade in 2017-18 with the LA Clippers for former All-Star forward Blake Griffin. Although Detroit got off to a hot start with Griffin, the Pistons stumbled down the stretch and missed the playoffs for the second straight season and third time in four seasons. 

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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