DALLAS -- The NBA fined Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy
$100,000 -- the largest amount ever for a coach -- on Monday, a day
after accusing officials of targeting center Yao Ming this
postseason and saying Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is to
While Van Gundy laughed off the penalty and Yao offered to pick
up half the tab, the matter jumped to another, far more serious
level. Commissioner David Stern called the fine "an intermediary
step," adding that an investigation will continue once the Rockets
finish their playoff run.
He said further punishment is possible, even implying that Van
Gundy could face a lifetime ban.
"If he's going to say things like that, he's not going to
continue in this league," Stern said. "If the attitude reflected
in those comments continues to be public, he's going to have a big
problem with me as long as I'm commissioner."
After the Rockets' 103-100 loss to the Mavericks in Game 5
Monday night, Van Gundy called Stern's statement "interesting."
But the coach stood by what he had said.
"I didn't see anything wrong with what I said," Van Gundy
explained. "But certainly, obviously, for a statement like that to
come out, he obviously differs. … That's all right."
Stern said the league is both furious at what Van Gundy said and
that he refuses to divulge the official he claims told him that
referees "were looking at Yao harder because of Mark's
complaints" to the league office.
"This is the first case I can remember when an allegation has
been made and the perpetrator hasn't cooperated," Stern said. "At
this time of year, there usually is a craziness in the land that
has to do with referees as coaches jockey for position. This one,
in our view, set a new low for that. That's why the fine is what it
was and that's why the investigation is continuing."
Van Gundy got himself into trouble by telling three reporters at
the team hotel in Dallas on Sunday night that a referee not working
the playoffs called him after the Rockets went up 2-0 and warned
that Yao was mentioned in an online evaluation from supervisor of
officials Ronnie Nunn.
Van Gundy added that because Cuban "has been hard on" the
league and officials, "he's gotten the benefit."
"I didn't think that really worked in the NBA, but in this case
it has," Van Gundy said.
He stood by his complaints Monday and said he's made many of
them privately to the league all season.
"I said what I said. I believe what I believe and I've seen
what I've seen. They've got to do what they think is right," Van
Gundy said. "I would watch all of [Yao's] 20 fouls with anyone.
And I would have no problems making my case that he's not refereed
appropriately. I stand by that."
For the most part, though, Van Gundy cracked jokes about the
fallout, saying things like his wife might make him sleep on the
porch. He also laughed about the fine coming from league vice
president Stu Jackson, who in 1989 was coach of the Knicks and
hired Van Gundy as an assistant.
"Stu brought me into the NBA so he giveth, and now he taketh
away," Van Gundy said.
He teased the team's PR director, who was standing next to him,
for allowing him to speak to reporters on a travel day -- "Gee, no
more non-mandatory media days for me," he said -- and especially
got a kick out of his fine being "double worst" the previous
largest, a $50,000 hit on Pat Riley in 2003 and Phil Jackson in
"If that's the worst thing that's happened in the NBA from a
coaching perspective, so be it," he said.
As for protecting his source, Van Gundy practically rolled his
eyes at his refusal to give up his friend during his conversation
with league security.
"I felt like I was in Watergate or something," he said.
When told about reporters who are facing 18 months in jail for
protecting sources, Van Gundy laughed and said, "My guy would have
to be on his own. I'd cut him loose."
Van Gundy clarified that his complaints aren't with the
officials, but with the way officials are asked to call games --
such as having certain points of emphasis.
"Believe me, I've been blessed to make enough money that if
this goes to good causes, that's a good thing," said Van Gundy, in
the second year of an $18 million, four-year contract.
However, he may not have to pay the whole thing. Yao offered to
split the fee because "coach was talking about me."
"I feel I need to do it that way," Yao said.
Cuban, who has been fined more than $1 million since buying the
team five years ago, found little irony in someone getting fined
for comments involving him and his pet target, the way officials do
"It's nice to see someone else buying the coffee and danish for
the NBA," he said.
When first learning about Van Gundy's comments, Cuban said in an
e-mail that the accusations were "crazy" and "an insult to
officials." He also noted that Dallas center Erick Dampier has
picked up quick fouls in every game in this series.
"They don't officiate individual players differently," Cuban
Cuban said the Mavs sent the league a list of plays they thought
could've been called moving screens on Yao and backup Dikembe
Mutombo. He said the league responded that "nine were actually
moving screens and should have been called but were not."
"So if anything, he has it completely backward," Cuban said.
Yao fouled out of Game 1 in 20 minutes. He had four fouls in
Game 2, when he made 13 of 14 shots and scored 33 points, then had
five fouls in each of the last two games.
Dampier fouled out of Game 4 in 18 minutes. He had five fouls in
19 minutes of Game 3.