Pelicans part way with Van Gundy after one season

Pelicans searching for another head coach

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are parting ways with head coach Stan Van Gundy after only one season. Van Gundy and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin met several times over the past few weeks but failed to agree on a long-term plan that involved Van Gundy.

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New Orleans went 31-41 during Van Gundy’s single season at the helm, falling short of the play-in tournament by several games. The Pelicans finished on a four-game losing streak and lost 12 of their final 18 matchups. Van Gundy’s team lost 14 games after giving up double-digit comebacks, the most in the NBA.

“On a basketball level, I thought this was a great situation basketball-wise, and it’s better than what I thought it was. I wasn’t happy with the results,” Van Gundy told reporters during his May 17 exit interview. “I wasn’t happy with myself on some things basketball-wise. But as far as looking at the job as a whole, it’s even better than I expected, and I expected it to be good.”

Van Gundy joined the Pelicans after being in the broadcast booth for several years. The 61-year-old was an assistant coach with the Miami Heat in the mid-1990s. He became Miami’s head coach in 2003 but stepped down early in the 2005 season. Van Gundy also served as the head coach in Orlando (2007-2012) and Detroit (2014-2018). He has a 554-425 career record.

The Pelicans have one of the youngest core’s in the NBA, including restricted free agent Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Zion Williamson. Youngsters Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, Jaxson Hayes, and Kira Lewis Jr. also played significant minutes this season.

“We were a very young, developing basketball team. While we have players with incredible talent, we don’t have the winning mettle yet,” Griffin told reporters after the season.

Van Gundy tried to instill that “winning mettle,” but the older coach didn’t connect with his young stars. Christian Clark of the Times-Picayune reported that Van Gundy and Ingram didn’t always see eye-to-eye. The former Laker wasn’t the only player that struggled with his head coach’s style.

“It was definitely different,” Hart said of Van Gundy’s style. “It wasn’t the easiest transition.” A report came out on June 11 that Hart, a restricted free agent, “would like a fresh start” away from New Orleans.

Van Gundy had his struggles throughout the season because of COVID-19 restrictions and the altered schedule.

“It was a hard year personally, because when I took the job, we didn’t know when training camp was going to start or any of that stuff,” Van Gundy said. “I had not really given a ton of thought to condensed training camp, condensed season, COVID protocols. That stuff was really, really difficult from a personal standpoint. For me, to go into Detroit and have my kids nearby, and I can’t see them. That kind of stuff. Having to limit people being able to come and visit us and things like that. On a personal level, it was difficult.”

Van Gundy’s departure means that Williamson will have his third coach in three years. Alvin Gentry led the Pelicans to a 30-42 record during the 2019 season.

Per Marc Stein of the New York Times, Pelicans assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon is a candidate to replace Van Gundy. Wojnarowski reported that Griffin plans on revisiting several candidates he interviewed for the head coaching position last year, including Brooklyn’s Ime Udoka and Jacque Vaughn, Milwaukee’s Charles Lee, and Los Angeles’ Jason Kidd.

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