Jeff Van Gundy will coach USA Basketball during qualifying games for the 2019 World Cup in China.
One must wonder if this will be the first step in Van Gundy’s potential return to an NBA sideline.
“Being able to represent your country is what was so enticing about the opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Van Gundy said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “When you coach, you never get it out of your system, so you miss it every day. I love what I do for ESPN and ABC, but I do miss coaching. So I’m just very appreciative of the chance to coach again and particularly coaching and representing USA Basketball.”
Van Gundy, 55, coached the Knicks from 1996-01, leading New York to an NBA Finals appearance in 1999. He also coached Houston from 2003-07.
“Certainly I would consider coaching again, as I have since I left the Rockets back in 2007,” said Van Gundy, who has been presented with opportunities over the years. “Coaching is a different type of joy. Let’s face it: In broadcasting, after the game, I’m not concerned with who won and who lost unless it’s one of my good friends in the game. I’m just worried about where we’re going to eat. So there’s not nearly the stress. I just want good food.
“In coaching, it’s different,” Van Gundy continued. “You’re responsible for results. You want to do your part to give your team the best chance they can to be successful. I took it seriously, I would again, I will in this USA Basketball situation as well. But with age comes hopefully some perspective. I thought I handled results better at Houston than I did in New York, and hopefully I would handle results in another job differently than I handled it in Houston.”
Coaching, of course, isn’t easy, especially at the professional level, where ego and drama abound.
Look no further than the situation in Cleveland, as one of Van Gundy’s former players, Ty Lue, must navigate the chaos and uncertainty that is the Cavaliers’ 2017 offseason.
“I’m sure he’s already worked extensively behind the scenes to try to prevent what happened with the trade demand and then after the trade demand to try to keep their group together,” Van Gundy said. “When you trade a talent like Irving, very rarely are you going to get equal value back. With Boston improving, I think Ty understands just how tenuous his team situation is, so I’m sure he’s working to try to keep it together. But it’s difficult. You got the Irving situation, you’ve got LeBron’s situation coming up in a year – there’s a lot of things that go on. But when you’ve got James on your team, you got a shot every night.”
James, though, isn’t enough to beat the Warriors. We saw that in 2015, and we saw it again in June.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in the NBA who can play with Golden State,” Van Gundy said. “If healthy, I think Golden State’s going to win the next two or three in a row before we even start to see someone who can challenge. Obviously injuries get in the way. Drama can get in the way, as we see in Cleveland. Some people – Pat Riley used to always say this, and I think it’s true in sport – some teams get tired of winning. Some players get tired of winning. They can’t stand the winning part because usually with that, you have to share the limelight, the success. You start to feel like, ‘I could win anywhere with anybody.’
“As we know, it’s very, very difficult to win,” Van Gundy continued. “That’s one of the things that Golden State has impressed me about. There was no resentment as far as Durant last year. I think they’re going to have to keep working to make sure they’re humble enough to retain their level of sacrifice that they’ve shown as they have started on the road to being a dynasty. I don’t think anything other than injury can prevent that.”