HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Jeff Van Gundy is in the spotlight these days, not just as an NBA analyst for ESPN, but as a candidate for a head coaching job with the L.A. Clippers and Brooklyn Nets. While the ex-coach Van Gundy has not confirmed or denied these reports, he did speak with SportsRadio 610’s J & R Show on Friday regarding the rumors, the possibility of coaching again, and Dwight Howard’s chances of coming to Houston. When asked point-blank about meeting with the Clippers and/or the Nets for a head coaching position, Van Gundy remained elusive.
“One thing I learned long ago that talking about jobs does neither the team nor the person any good so if the team ever wants to talk about, if any team wants to talk about talking to me, that’s their right but I choose to stay out of the fray. There’s so much speculation about all these jobs and so much wrong speculation that to try to right it and all that and I just stay out of the way. But the Clippers are a good team and they’ll get a good coach. There’s no doubt about that.”
The ex-coach who led the Rockets to consecutive playoff appearances (2003-04, 2004-05) has enjoyed rising popularity and success as an analyst and commentator for ESPN. Van Gundy has transitioned well from coaching to the broadcaster’s booth and admits he has a job that many would covet.
“Well obviously coaching has been a big part of my life and I love that part of my professional life very much. Nothing like coaching NBA basketball, particularly when you’ve had really good guys who are really good players and so I was very fortunate and if something came along that made sense, in all aspects of my life, it would be great. But certainly, I know how fortunate I am to be doing games on television. Those are hard jobs to get as well and I work with people I really admire at ESPN and particularly, my partner Mike Breen,” Van Gundy said.
Besides the job search for a new head coach in L.A. or Brooklyn, Van Gundy also sounded off on the possibility of the Lakers’ Dwight Howard coming to Houston as a free agent. Van Gundy, a self-proclaimed Houston enthusiast, definitely sees the draw for Howard to play for the Rockets’ organization.
“Houston is an enticing place. One, to live, financially it’s enticing. The team is extremely well-managed with (owner) Les (Alexander) and (general manager) Daryl (Morey) doing a tremendous job and then I think they are very well-coached,” said Van Gundy. “I think when you look at everything from a player’s perspective that may enter into it, Houston hits everything a player would want. You’re inserting Howard for, I suspect, (Omer) Asik and I think to consider it you’d have to consider obviously trading him and what you could get for Asik but Dwight is a heck of a player.”
The biggest concern with Howard might be his attitude, according to Van Gundy. Would he eventually become a disgruntled individualist like in Los Angeles? Would he be a team player, abiding head coach Kevin McHale’s game plan and contributing to the young Rocket team’s collective success? Van Gundy says it’s a big question mark that could swing Howard’s success in Houston one way or the other.
“Where is his head? Will he fully commit to the team and to doing exactly what Kevin McHale wants him to do in order for them to be what they want to be. Or, is he going to go through these mood swings attitudinally that impact his play but also impact his team,” said Van Gundy. “It really depends on the attitude Dwight Howard brings. If he brings a good attitude, it’s a no brainer. The Rockets would be better and to me, with their existing talent, if they don’t have to give up a lot to get him from creating cap space, then to me, they jump right up into the top four that can compete for it all in the Western Conference.”
Van Gundy discussed Houston NBA greats such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming who had great individual success but were team players first and foremost. James Harden is currently the face of the Rockets after an All-Star first season with the team. How well would Howard fit in with Harden and the Rockets?
“You see Dwight Howard’s greatest strengths will always be defense and rebounding. He is a limited offensive player that is a very good pick and roll screener and then very effective roller to the basket. That’s how Houston plays now. He would fit in very well but if he wants the ball brought to him on the block 20 times a game, like Kevin McHale used to get it brought to him back in his Boston heyday, then that would be detrimental to the Rockets. It would be detrimental to their team, the win and loss departments. So it all depends on how Howard wants to fit,” he said.
For now, Jeff Van Gundy’s perfect fit is in broadcasting where he is currently focused on the NBA playoffs underway.