New Orleans wants to be a winner sooner rather than later, and to do that they need to improve dramatically on the defensive end.
Stan Van Gundy is a perfect fit with those goals.
Van Gundy has agreed to be the next New Orleans Pelicans head coach, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez of ESPN, and since confirmed by Van Gundy himself.
I’m excited to join a talented New Orleans Pelicans team. It will be an honor to work with our players and to work for Mrs. Benson and David Griffin, Trajan Langdon, their staff and the great people of New Orleans. I can’t wait to talk to our players and get the process started
— Stan Van Gundy (@realStanVG) October 21, 2020
This is reportedly a four-year contract. Van Gundy takes over for Alvin Gentry, who was let go after a disappointing season that ended with a 2-6 record in the bubble.
Van Gundy has been a head coach in Miami, Orlando — leading that peak Dwight Howard team to the NBA Finals — and most recently Detroit. While the Pistons era did not end well, that was more about Van Gundy wearing two hats as GM and coach, and he struggled in the front office role.
That will not be an issue in New Orleans, where David Griffin runs the show and Van Gundy will be focused on coaching.
The Pelicans roster is playoff-ready now if players can stay healthy and if Van Gundy can lift a defense that was 21st in the NBA last regular season (and was a couple of points per 100 possessions worse in the bubble). Van Gundy has always been a smart defensive tactician, and the Pelicans will get better on that end.
The talent is there, but much of it is young, which is why Van Gundy’s reputation as a teacher of the game should make him a good fit. Zion Williamson is the biggest name and played at an All-Star level when healthy, but they had another All-Star in Brandon Ingram — who will get a max contract extension by the Pelicans this summer — plus a strong core of young players such as Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Jaxson Hayes, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Those guys are surrounded by solid veterans such as J.J. Redick and Jrue Holiday (although there is a lot of buzz around the NBA that Holiday could be traded this offseason).
This was a quality hire by the Pelicans. They have the core of a potential contending team in a few years — with a few tweaks — and Van Gundy can help New Orleans get to that level.