Stan Van Gundy is a very good coach. That should not be lost in any conversation in regards to the longtime NBA coach, who has proven year in and year out that he is capable of leading a franchise to the playoffs.
He has taken Pat Riley’s championship principles and successfully implemented them to his teams. However, as good as Van Gundy is with the X’s and O’s of basketball, his all-too-honest personality gets him into trouble.
That was the case Thursday when the Orlando Magic head coach outed his best player, Dwight Howard, when he revealed to the media that Howard went to management and told them he wanted his coach gone.
Now, most coaches would publicly just keep their emotions in check and keep the ugly issue in house. But Van Gundy wears his emotions on his collar, and he just couldn’t resist telling the whole word that the player he has tried to help become the best in the game is leading the charge in asking for his ouster.
As much as that hurts, Van Gundy was wrong for allowing the media into the circle of trust that bonds players and coaches. As much as it hurts, Van Gundy should have taken the high road and told the press nothing. As much as it hurts, Van Gundy should have been the bigger man (even though he’s barely Jameer Nelson’s height) and remove the dagger stuck to his back without a complaint.
Let’s face it. Howard may be 26 years old but he acts like an 8-year-old. So, for Van Gundy to drop down to Howard’s third-grade level is unacceptable for a 52-year-old seasoned NBA coach. He handled it like a school teacher fearful of losing his or her job over a petulant student.
Van Gundy, to a fault, is a stand-up guy. He gives honest evaluations of his players and how they perform, and he provides the media with honest answers when a microphone or a tape recorder is placed in front of him. Van Gundy should have muted himself and avoided the whole Dwight drama.
Players generally don’t like being exposed, and Van Gundy exposed Howard’s immature behavior by informing the media the truth. Sometimes not telling the truth is the way to go. Coaches do it all the time to avoid conflicts in the locker room.
What Van Gundy did was pour gasoline onto an already fiery situation. If the Van Gundy-Howard relationship was icy before, it just became frigid. Now, Howard has completely lost trust in his coach. Once the franchise player turns his back on a coach and rest of the team will follow, and that clearly showed in Orlando’s 96-80 loss to – of all teams – the New York Knicks, who had their own mutiny earlier in the season that resulted in the resignation of Mike D’Antoni.
Stan Van Gundy has lost his team and his days in Orlando are numbered.