The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that they are parting ways with Head Coach Stan Van Gundy after only one season. Van Gundy was expected to elevate a young and talented Pelicans squad into the playoffs. After finishing with a disappointing 31-41 record, General Manager David Griffin has decided that it is time for the franchise to move in another direction.
New Orleans Pelicans Part Ways With Stan Van Gundy
Van Gundy admitted in his exit interview that he struggled to adjust to the shortened 2020-21 season. The health and safety protocols seemed to drain on him as well. He expressed frustration with the league’s limitations on visitors and his inability to see family while on the road. The condensed training camp and regular-season schedule proved to be too much for the coach to adapt to. Van Gundy is not the only coach to vocalize how draining this season has been. However, every team in the league had to deal with this new reality and the Pelicans’ poor performance was seen as a step in the wrong direction by their front office.
Coach Van Gundy has a history of clashing with his star players, and if reports are to be believed, this was again the case in New Orleans. It has been alleged that he wasn’t getting along with Brandon Ingram throughout the season. Rumors are that the young Pelicans roster didn’t gel with Van Gundy’s hard-nosed, defense-first approach. His style is a clear contrast to that of his predecessor, Alvin Gentry, who is known around the league as a player’s coach.
The last two stops in Van Gundy’s coaching career beg the question, has the league passed him by? He saw success in both Miami and Orlando during the first decade of the century but not much since then. His last winning record as a head coach came in the 2015-16 season with the Detroit Pistons. He finished his four seasons in Detroit with a combined 152-176 record.
The Proof is in the Playstyle
Despite Van Gundy’s reputation as a defensive guru, the Pelicans finished 24th in the league in points allowed. New Orleans finished this season with the worst defensive rating in franchise history at 113.8. This team has the length and athleticism to play good defense and get out on the fast break to push teams offensively. Despite the evolution of star Zion Williamson and the addition of veteran role players, this team finished 11th in the west and 20th in the league. They did finish 9th in the league in pace, so they may want to consider a coach that will play to the team’s strength in that regard.
What’s Next for Van Gundy?
When the Pistons fired Van Gundy in 2018, he took a short break from the game. The following year, he was added to the TNT broadcasting team as an analyst. With over 20 years of coaching experience, he could provide quality insight for another broadcasting team in the future. He has also spent time in the front office for Detroit as President of Basketball Operations. His coaching days may be behind him, but he could still provide value to a franchise in other ways. Based on his recent comments about family and the stress of the 2020-21 season, it is safe to say that we might not hear much from Van Gundy in the immediate future.
What’s Next for New Orleans?
A few names are being thrown out as potential replacements already. Los Angeles Lakers Assistant Coach Jason Kidd has been mentioned, along with Nets’ assistants Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka. Current Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon is said to be in consideration as well. No matter who New Orleans goes with, they should include their franchise players in the decision to some extent. This will be Ingram and Williamson’s third coach in as many years. The Pelicans would be wise to have the buy-in of these two All-Stars going forward.
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