Van Gundy on the Nets: It’s a really good situation

by Mike Murray

NEW YORK ( – Earlier today, ESPN/ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy participated in a conference call about his network’s coverage of the NBA Finals.  However, that wasn’t the only subject touched upon.  Several questions dealt with the possibility of Van Gundy getting back into coaching, particularly with the Brooklyn Nets.  The following are excerpts from the conference call which dealt with that subject.

How would you evaluate where you are regarding a possible return to coaching against staying in broadcasting?

VAN GUNDY: Well, you know, I think when you’re talking about broadcasting, I’ll never feel as comfortable broadcasting as I do in coaching because I’m just not ‑‑ I’m still a novice at it.  Thankfully I work with the Tim Duncan of broadcasting in Mike Breen; his understated greatness really helps out a novice like myself.

You know, as far as coaching, in particular, listen, if anything ever makes sense for a team and for myself where there is a fit of vision and values, I’d obviously consider it.  And ESPN has been, you know, so generous in allowing me to do that.

But I also realize just how good I have it with the job I have right now.  I don’t take that for granted.  I enjoy working with the people I work with.  I enjoy being around the game.  I’ve just been a big beneficiary of Mike and Tim, the producer, to help me try to get a little bit better every year.

If you had to sort of go with your gut today, do you imagine you’ll be back in broadcasting next year?

VAN GUNDY:     Well, you know, that’s the job I have right now, so I would think so.

One thing I’ve learned is I don’t look too far ahead.  I don’t try to plan my life out.  I have enough trouble getting ready to go to the airport today.  So for me to plan too far ahead, I don’t do that.  I just enjoy what I’m doing.

My dad gave me good, sound, solid advice when I was coming out of college, and he always told me, “Don’t worry about your next job.  Just do the job you have as well as you can.”  That served me pretty well and I’m trying to stick with that.

The fact that you have gotten enjoyment in broadcasting and stayed close to the staple, has it made it easier for you to stay out of coaching?

VAN GUNDY:     Well, the thing about broadcasting is the lifestyle of broadcasting is great.  Like you said, you get to stay around the game.  Now, it’s not as rewarding to me as coaching, but it’s also not as disheartening at times, either.  So you have a more even‑keel lifestyle I think.  That’s been great.

Like I said, I’m more than fortunate, more than fortunate with the job I have.  I love to watch NBA basketball.  I love to talk NBA basketball.  And to the irritation of others, I like to talk about how I think NBA basketball can improve its game, too.  Like I said, I’m very, very fortunate.

What do you think of the Brooklyn Nets situation, and what kind of coach do you think this team needs to maximize what they have on the roster?

VAN GUNDY:     Well, I think they maximized their roster very well last year.  I thought the only down part of the year was when Brook Lopez was injured earlier in the year.  Unfortunately for Avery Johnson, who I think is an outstanding coach, that little downturn cost him his job.

And having been a coach, I know how difficult that situation is, and I thought P.J. Carlesimo and his staff did a really good job, a fantastic job, in guiding them to 49 wins.  And then unfortunately for them, they lost a huge lead in Chicago in the first round of that playoff series, and then I think they probably all regret their first half performance in Game 7 at home.  That was a game that I’m sure that they will all stay incredibly disappointed about throughout the summer, because they were ‑‑ they had better talent at that point than Chicago did with all their injuries and they didn’t take advantage of that.

As far as what coach they have, obviously they have a very ‑‑ an ownership that wants to win badly.  To me, that’s where it starts.  They put the resources into winning.  I think they need some other components to add to their roster to give them a chance to move up into that championship‑caliber team category, and I think they are going to get a really good coach, because it’s a really good situation.

And so it will be interesting to see who they pick out of the whole batch of really good coaches, who they decide on.  But it all starts with the players.  You can change coaches, but if you want different results, then there has to be more change than just the coach.  There’s got to be roster manipulation or tweaks, or, if you don’t have that, then what are their present‑day players willing to do differently to get even better results.

One of the criticisms of Deron Williams was that he wasn’t the type of leader that that team needed.  Do you think that was a fair criticism?

VAN GUNDY:     Not from what I saw.  I saw Deron Williams, particularly in the second half of the season, play with the energy and the intensity that NBA fans had grown accustomed to seeing.  He’s a hard‑playing, highly‑skilled person.

Now, everybody leads differently, and unless you’re there every day, I wouldn’t know if he’s a vocal leader or if he’s a little bit quieter.  But what I do know resonates with all players is not as much what is said, but what is done.

And to me, everybody I’ve ever talked to said Deron Williams was very good in practice.  He practiced every day, he practiced hard, and you see that in the games, as well.

So I think he’s a very good leader.  And the final point on that is often times it’s not as much about how someone leads as it is as much as who they are leading.  If you have the right guys that want to be led and want to be pulling the rope in the same direction.

Talking about the Clippers and the Nets jobs, and there’s been debate about which is the better job because they are the two best on the market and both have different strengths to them, but from an evaluation standpoint, which do you think gives whoever they do hire the best chance to compete for a championship?

VAN GUNDY:     You’re talking Clippers and the Nets?  Well, I think that’s hard to discern without knowing the addition to the rosters, draft picks, how well they performed.  I think certainly if they re‑sign Chris Paul, the Clippers have a greater depth of talent right now.

But they are also in the West, which is a much more difficult conference.  I think the ownership of the Nets has proven time and time again that they are willing to now, you know, try to get elite talent, but how do they go about it, because of their cap situation.  That’s a little bit challenging.

And they are playing against ‑‑ they are in a conference that is weaker, but they have got a lot of people coming back next year off of injury:  Danny Granger with the Pacers; Derrick Rose, Luol Deng with the Bulls; Rondo with the Celtics.

So the Eastern Conference could toughen up, too, so it’s really hard to determine.  I would say both are not far away.  It just takes the right moves.


And so it goes.

Ciao for now!