The Pelicans reached out to new head coach Stan Van Gundy shortly after he finished his broadcast duties in Orlando, writes Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report. Van Gundy left the Disney World campus after calling the seeding games and the first two rounds of the playoffs for TNT. Soon after, David Griffin, executive VP of basketball operations in New Orleans, contacted him to gauge his interest in coaching again.
Van Gundy held three meetings with Griffin, general manager Trajan Langdon, and vice president Swin Cash before receiving the job offer that he accepted today.
“I always knew that I had a desire to coach (again) if the situation was right,” Van Gundy said. “I wasn’t trying to get my name in on every job. I wasn’t calling my agent about every job. This one was one that I thought was a good fit on both sides, so I was very interested in it.
“I loved broadcasting. I was having a great time with it. A lot of people were helping me learn and try to get better, and I would have been fine and very, very happy if I had done that for the rest of my working life. But I guess deep down, I’m always a coach. When the right situation came, I was happy to be involved in it.”
New Orleans became the right situation because of a roster loaded with young talent, starting with rookie forward Zion Williamson, a potential franchise player. After missing the beginning of the season with an injury, Williamson was spectacular once he took the court, averaging 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists in his 24 starts while playing just 27.8 minutes per game. He was one of the most eagerly anticipated rookies the league has seen in years, and Van Gundy gets the chance to develop his game for the future.
“That combination of size, quickness and explosive power, it really hasn’t come along,” he said. “People were trying to make the comparison to LeBron (James) or to Charles Barkley, and that’s probably as close as you’ll get. … What everybody notices is the big body and the great leaping ability, but he’s also got an incredible first step offensively and plays the game very unselfishly. He makes quick decisions, the ball leaves his hand quickly, so other guys can enjoy playing with him. He’s not a ball-stopper.”
Van Gundy’s first order of business will be to fill out his coaching staff in conjunction with the front office. He has already started calling Pelicans players and plans to meet with each of them soon.
It has been two-and-a-half years since Van Gundy was fired in Detroit, where he was also president of basketball operations. He admitted he wanted to get away from coaching at the time, but his experience at Disney World brought him back to it.
“The thing about being in the bubble is there was nothing else to do,” Van Gundy said. “So on days where we weren’t doing games, or even when you’re doing one game and there are four games total, you’re watching the other three. There’s nothing else to do. You’re at the hotel, and I don’t golf, so you’re just sitting in your room watching basketball and taking notes. So I think it helped increase my interest in getting back to coaching, watching all that stuff, and then it was great for ideas and to get my brain going.”