Zion Williamson is about to have his third coach in his third NBA season.
Stan Van Gundy was brought in to help grow the games of Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and the young players in New Orleans, plus make the Pelicans a better defensive team and get them to the playoffs — the players did improve, but SVG rubbed most of them the wrong way (something discussed a lot by league sources prior to this), and the Pelicans did not defend well or get into the postseason.
Now Van Gundy is out, fired after one season in New Orleans, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez of ESPN and since confirmed by multiple sources.
Van Gundy and Pelicans EVP David Griffin have been meeting regularly to discuss the future and ending this partnership after just one season started to feel like an inevitable result around the organization, sources said. https://t.co/sAduFLcEiG
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 16, 2021
Van Gundy being fired is not as big a surprise in league circles as it may seem from the outside.
There was a lot of smoke around the league of Zion (and other players) not being happy with Van Gundy. A source with the Pelicans told NBC Sports a couple of weeks ago that, considering their cap situation, they would largely be running back the same roster next season, there would not be major roster changes. Van Gundy didn’t have much support in the locker room, and reportedly had not built much of a relationship with David Griffin or with owner Gayle Benson.
The Pelicans need to keep their superstar happy — and not trying to force his way out of The Big Easy — so Van Gundy is out.
Who’s next? From Wojnarowski and Lopez:
The Pelicans are expected to circle back among some candidates from a year ago to replace Van Gundy, including assistants Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka (Brooklyn), Charles Lee (Milwaukee) and Jason Kidd (Lakers), sources told ESPN.
The Pelicans had a player-friendly coach in Alvin Gentry, went to more of a taskmaster in Van Gundy, expect the pendulum to swing back the other way this time.
Whoever they hire, the Pelicans need to find some stability. And wins.