Q&A: Stan Van Gundy, Part 1
August, 26, 2013
By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
AP Photo/Nick Wass
Stan Van Gundy can talk. Away from the sidelines -- and not screaming -- for more than a year, the former Orlando Magic coach no longer sounds like Dwight Howard's famously raspy imitation.
This Van Gundy is still bluntly honest, but he is also more expansive with his comments. He’s been guest-hosting weekly on Dan Le Batard's Miami-based radio program -- training that perhaps has turned Van Gundy's points into paragraphs, sound bites into monologues. Like any radio host worth his Arbitron, he keeps you invested throughout the verbal essays.
On this day, he’s pontificating on a variety of subjects, including his relationship with Howard, media coverage in the NBA, and more.
Why are coaches getting fired so often when they dictate so much of the game?
That one I would have a hard time explaining. You get to the point where you're changing 13 jobs in one year, over 40 percent of your league and three guys [Vinny Del Negro of the Clippers, Lionel Hollins of the Grizzlies, George Karl of the Nuggets] who led their teams to the most wins in franchise history. Look, there's a lot of different reasons and I certainly don't know the ins and outs of each situation, but I think a large part of it is that there's sort of been a new breed of general manager coming into the league. We had younger guys. We've got guys not coming from coaching backgrounds as much. More guys coming from the analytics backgrounds. And they want different things than their head coaches. And I think in large part, I think a lot of them, [you] hire younger GMs without a coaching background.
My theory is that not all, but some of those guys are intimidated by experienced coaches that have their way of doing things and they're more comfortable having younger guys, first-time guys that they feel will listen to them more, that they will have more control over. So, there definitely has been a change. I think it's more coming from the GM side, but all of these things in the NBA tend to run in cycles, so we'll just have to see where it goes.
Why do you and Dwight Howard remain friends? Why do you still frequently text each other after everything that happened?
I do think that one thing that we all do is look at the whole picture when you're looking at something. And there's no one I know, there's no one that I care about, people I'm a lot closer to than guys I've coached like my family, there's not one of them I haven't had major disagreements with.
One, you still love them and everything else, but also you're judging by the whole picture. So, I can look at what Dwight did for me as a coach and for our whole basketball team in Orlando and everything else and I'm very, very appreciative.
Plus, I don't think there was ever a point where I didn't like Dwight personally. I like him. I've had a lot of laughs with him. He's a good guy. We had some things that we disagreed on. We had some things we disagreed strongly on and some times where we pissed each other off. And those were well-documented. But it doesn't negate all of the good things he did and the good times that were there in the five years we were together. So for me, it's not a hard thing to overlook.
Just look back at your life and the people in your life. If you're really being honest about it, then you're going to think of major blowups you had with those people. You're going to think of times you stormed out of the house. But you keep coming back because for the most part you will work off things in the big picture. You have to be careful not getting caught up in the moment too much.
Can media coverage have a corrosive impact on a team?
The media's job is different than ours. Let's put it this way: The media can certainly be a challenge. You're out looking for stories. And that's your job. And for a lot of people, maybe not a lot, but for a few people, the easiest way is to look for the negative.
The whole world has different challenges now with the 24-hour news cycle and just the volume of stuff that's out there. And everybody has to get out there. So you've got all these people now, because it's online 24 hours, if I want to get noticed, I got to have something different. And so the beat reporter writes his story and the team played well and blah blah blah. Well, I can't write that same story now. Nobody's going to read it.
So every angle is going to be covered. Every angle. That's not just in sports. That's in everything. It certainly presents a challenge, but I don't think that that's something you can blame on the media. I think coaches sometimes look at the media as the enemy. I don't think that's fair. It's going to be like any profession. Ninety-nine percent of the people are going to work hard and just try to do a good job. And you're going to find that 1 percent that lacks integrity, will trump up stories, won't be honest, but there's so few of them. I never wanted to look at the media as an enemy, I never wanted my players to look at the media as an enemy.
Do coaches get frustrated by media ignorance of strategy and details?
I never really got that frustrated by that. You have to realize that their level of knowledge is not going to be what a coach's is. The criticism from the media never really bothered me. I'd correct it when I can, but that's their job. If stuff wasn't personal, then it really didn't bother me.
I'm sure I've pissed off everybody I've ever met one way or another. And whether they like me or not, I hope they're at least basing it on the whole picture.
Is watching the NBA more fun now that you’re not coaching?
I would say I probably enjoyed it more when I was coaching because I was more specifically looking at it in terms of, "Wow, that would be good for our team" if I was just watching another game or, "When do we play that team? We're going to have to do this." I enjoyed the deeper analysis more than I enjoy just sitting down and watching a game.
I enjoyed how I watched the games as a coach more than I do how I watch games now.
Why do you respect (Tampa Bay Rays manager) Joe Maddon so much?
He is very analytical in what he does. Is there any way he can gain an advantage with his shifts, probably the most obvious one, or squeeze bunting? He's not afraid to go against the book. He's not managing worried about what might be said if something doesn't work. He's going to analyze situations and go with what he thinks gives his team the best chance to succeed in that situation and not worry about the possible repercussions. And to me, that's the biggest thing to learn.