Twelve men have become NBA head coaches in the previous 20 years and won at least 350 games:
- Gregg Popovich
- Doc Rivers
- Flip Saunders
- Rick Carlisle
- Nate McMillan
- Scott Skiles
- Mike D’Antoni
- Byron Scott
- Jeff Van Gundy
- Stan Van Gundy
- Erik Spoelstra
- Alvin Gentry
Ten are still in the league, either as a head or assistant coach. One, Saunders, was coaching until he died last year.
The other is Jeff Van Gundy.
Why isn’t he in the league?
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:
…sources with knowledge of Van Gundy’s say that he would require a similar situation to what his brother Stan got in Detroit, which is total franchise control.
This would explain why Jeff – who coached the Knicks and Rockets and last worked in the NBA in 2007 – got so far with the Pelicans last summer. They didn’t seem sold on general manager Dell Demps (and still don’t). If they’re making a front-office change this offseason, would they also drop Alvin Gentry to get Jeff?
Three other teams – the Rockets, Nets and Timberwolves – have interim coaches. Daryl Morey is entrenched as Houston’s general manager, and Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov has expressed a desire for a separate general manager and coach. Saunders coached and ran the front office, so Minnesota need to fill both roles long-term – and has been open to relying on one person in the past.
This philosophy obviously limits Jeff’s options for returning to the league. Why is it so important to him?
I think Stan’s reaction to David Blatt’s firing reveals insight:
“If David Blatt’s getting fired how in the hell do the rest of us have jobs? Because our front offices aren’t quite as crazy as theirs.”
Many coaches don’t prioritize dual titles to assemble the roster. They prioritize being insulated from general managers with sometimes differing agendas. Running the front office themselves is the best way to do so.
It might limit their job options. Stan was out of the league a couple years until the Pistons offered full control.
But Jeff seems to enjoy his job as a color commentator. He can ask for the moon from NBA teams. If he doesn’t get it, his fallback option is pretty good.