Jeff Van Gundy’s tenure with the New York Knicks ended with him quitting. That’s a fact he both can’t escape and that some fans will never forgive him for. However, he also had the most successful tenure as a Knicks coach outside of Red Holzman. Many have wished for his return over the years. Apparently he shares those thoughts. He’s now hoping Phil Jackson will take the time to call him and explore if a reunion is a real possibility.
Jeff Van Gundy’s time with the New York Knicks ended like every other Knicks coach outside of Red Holzman, without a championship. However, he came the closest out of any post-Holzman coach to bringing a ring back to Madison Square Garden.
He was the head coach in New York when basketball was still basketball. Back then, the NBA was closer to a “no blood, no foul” league than the current version where a player can flop or get sneezed on an end up on the charity stripe.
And Van Gundy wasn’t afraid to not only stand by his players but also stand up for them. Just ask Alonzo Mourning who gave Van Gundy a ride on his leg like a toddler wrapped around an adults ankle.
In 2013, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork reported that Van Gundy greatly regretted walking away from his job with the Knicks.
“I quit the Knicks so I know what quitting is,” Van Gundy said in an interview with “The Michael Kay Show.” “I did. I quit. And it’s something I regret to this day. I live with it every day and I regret it. And I let my emotions come into it. And I was just emotionally spent. I made a bad decision and I quit.
… I live with that regret every day. Not because I view myself, quote-unquote as a quitter. I don’t look at it that way. But I did leave that situation, I did quit that situation and I live with that regret,” Van Gundy, now an ESPN analyst, said.
Fans can still be upset he left but after listening to his regret everyone should stop holding a grudge. Everyone’s made decisions personally and professionally they’ve regretted in life. The only reason for any ill feelings towards Van Gundy for leaving is because of the fine job he did while he was here. If he wasn’t good at his job no one would have cared.
That brings us back to the Knicks coaching search. Obviously Steve Kerr was Phil Jackson’s first choice. It didn’t work out, time to move on. Ideally, Jackson wants to find a coach who knows the triangle offense and one he can work closely with. That’s what makes a first-time coach like Kerr of Derek Fisher so appealing.
However, recently Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork reported that Van Gundy thought Jackson didn’t necessarily need to hire a triangle expert or someone from his past.
“I think it makes sense for him to talk to people that he philosophically shares a great deal of agreement on,” Van Gundy told O’Connor. “But even if you haven’t coached, certainly, in a triangle system, I don’t think that will preclude him from looking at people, because while you may not have had expertise, or experience coaching in the triangle, most coaches believe in unselfishness, floor balance, and defensive rebounding.
“So I’m not sure that whoever he hires is going to have had to have worked for him. I think it would be a benefit if he had worked with him before, but I think a lot of people could coach in a manner in which he would find it as a positive.”
Van Gundy took his opinion of the possible hire even further by slyly throwing his name into the conversation as a candidate for the job.
“If Phil Jackson ever wanted to talk basketball with me, which, listen, who knows if that’s true, but if he ever did, of course I would take the time, because I’m sure I could benefit from the conversation,” Van Gundy told O’Connor.
It’s nice to hear that Van Gundy is open to a return to New York, even under Jackson. Most fans believed that to be impossible since the two had bad blood between them stemming from the Knicks-Bulls rivalry in the 1990s.
This doesn’t mean that Van Gundy is currently a real candidate for the job. However, if the fans have heard about Van Gundy throwing his had in the ring so has Jackson. Now, Jackson probably still rather bring in someone like Fisher. However, if Jackson decides to widen his search he now knows that Van Gundy is interested.
That being said, even though Van Gundy might think that Jackson would entertain someone from outside of his comfort zone that isn’t consistent with the consensus of the rest of the basketball world. However, if Jackson isn’t convinced his top choices can handle the job and Van Gundy is proven right it’s possible Jackson does elect to hire an established coach. Only time will tell.
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