The New Orleans Pelicans are looking for a new head coach in the wake of their surprise firing of head coach Monty Williams. Many figured that he would get a chance to compete next season with a healthy roster coming off a playoff appearance. But that was not what New Orleans had in mind. The search for a new head coach has had a few interesting names mentioned. One of the most mentioned names out there has been former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. The recently fired head man in Chicago and the front office have been at odds for a while now and their divorce was finally announced on Thursday. He will get an interview there in New Orleans if he wants one, but he is not the only coach they are checking out at this time. And with the draft quickly approaching, the Pelicans have to make a decision on a new head coach. With that in mind, the Pelicans have looked everywhere for the next head coach of their organization. Their search has led them to the broadcast booth to potentially bring in their new head coach. Former Rockets and Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy reportedly met with the Pelicans brass in regards to their head coaching position. Van Gundy is seemingly so intrigued by the idea of coaching budding superstar Anthony Davis that he is considering ending his hiatus from coaching. But what can you expect from Van Gundy should he step back into the coaching arena?
The New Orleans Pelicans are a young team with talent everywhere. But this season they had some health issues and that led to an inconsistent performance from them all season. But they were able to pull it together enough and get to the playoffs. While in the playoffs, the Pelicans had one of their glaring weaknesses exposed. The Warriors were going to the basket at will against the Pelicans, even with the presence of shot-blocker Anthony Davis. And as a result, the Warriors dispatched of the Pelicans rather easily in four games. Going forward, the Pelicans have to be tougher in the paint. They were one of the worst paint defending teams in the NBA and Van Gundy could be the perfect guy to change that for them. Throughout his coaching career, Van Gundy has had stout defenses. When he was in New York, he had a veteran team that was tough and physical. And with that team he made them a factor in the Eastern Conference virtual every year he was there. And when he went to Houston, he made them a tough team and also a team that could compete in the West. But unfortunately for him, injuries, mainly to Yao Ming, caused them to not achieve the heights they could have achieved. From Patrick Ewing to Yao Ming, Van Gundy always had a cornerstone inside that was able to be the backbone of his defense. And although Anthony Davis is not a center, he could definitely be the cornerstone of that defense. With New Orleans, Van Gundy would have a team that is as athletic as he has had, but also as inexperienced as he has had also. But the thing he would also have is a team that is younger than he had in New York and Houston that could run on teams as opposed to grinding it out on the offensive end. The possibilities of what Van Gundy could bring to this team would be endless on the defensive end and that could make this team a perennial playoff participant.
Van Gundy has had success everywhere he has been, but there has always been one criticism he has always had. The teams he had were always competitive and in every game, but the offenses he trotted out there were very hard on the eyes. Who can forget the grind-it-out teams he had in New York all those years? With those teams, it always seemed he could not squeak out 85-90 points consistently. And in the end, the lack of offense always ended up being the downfall of his teams. Not only was the lack of offense the biggest downfall of him, it was the biggest criticism that fans of his teams always had. With the Pelicans considering bringing him in, that could be something they have to look forward to. New Orleans already is an offense that has some issues as we saw in the playoffs. They didn’t know what to do down the stretch of games to win and they had some horrible possessions. By bringing in Van Gundy, it would almost guarantee their offense would lose what little bit of creativity that it had under former coach Monty Williams. New Orleans would be better defensively, but the offense would make the fans of the Pelicans boo uncontrollably and cry for offense. If Van Gundy is to be hired and bring in someone to run his offense, then he could potentially be ok. But Van Gundy changing his style of play this late in the game is like asking a person to take on a different personality than who they are. The fact is Van Gundy is a defensive guy with little to no offensive imagination. And that could spell doom for the Pelicans as Anthony Davis potentially enters the free agency after this season (provided he does not sign the extension the Pelicans are supposedly laying out for him).
There are plenty of candidates for this job and there is no certainty that Van Gundy will get this job. But if he does, the Pelicans would be rolling the dice that this new coaching hire would be enough to convince Anthony Davis that New Orleans is the place to achieve even higher levels of success. In the end, it will be interesting to see if he is able to morph this Pelicans team into a tough defensive unit, should he get the opportunity to coach them, while making a creative and effective offense in the process.