Jeff Van Gundy Rumors
At least one person thought that could happen. It was Jeff Van Gundy, a graduate assistant during Donovan’s senior year at Providence. Van Gundy started chirping, gassing Donovan up about his chances as he helped prepare him for training camp. “Jeff’s like, ‘Listen, man. I’m telling you. You’ve got a chance to make this team,’” Donovan remembered. “He said, ‘They’ve got a guy there that’s in, like, his third year named Stockton that I’m not so sure about. He hasn’t played very much.’
John Stockton went on to play his entire 19-year career in Utah, appearing in the third most games of all time while finishing as the NBA’s all-time assist leader. “I’m not saying I didn’t say it, but I don’t remember saying anything specifically,” Van Gundy said of his alleged Stockton comment. “If I said something like that, I’m going to blame my sleep deprivation on coach (Rick) Pitino having us work 20 hours a night. That’s the only explanation for such a ludicrous statement like that.”
Weis was excited, too. But his exuberance was quickly tempered after a few choppy interactions with Van Gundy, who did not seem pleased with Weis having been the team’s draft choice. During phone calls with Celia, Weis described Van Gundy as having been “cold” to him and showing little interest in him. He told her a story about how Van Gundy had seen him wearing his watch just before practice — Weis was always a stickler for being on time — and berated him about whether he planned to wear it once workouts began.
Van Gundy, in an interview, said he had no particular recollections about his interactions with Weis — there were few, he said, and all took place more than 15 years ago — but added that he had “nothing bad to say about him.” “To be honest, what stands out to me is that I remember him being an incredibly nice and sweet guy,” Van Gundy said.
Weis had a horrible experience in 1999 summer league, with Shea saying he was treated harshly by former coach Jeff Van Gundy, who opposed the pick. Weis never came back to the US. “You still want to talk about 1999, but it’s 2015 and Phil just made his first-ever first-round pick and he gets an A,’’ Shea said.
Van Gundy, who serves as part of ABC’s NBA Finals broadcast crew along with Mike Breen, former coach and player Mark Jackson and Doris Burke, didn’t stop his praise there. “I think he was masterful in, he simplified the game,” Van Gundy said. “You know, he might have had one idea in how he was gonna come in and play, and then he saw what the players could do, should do and were willing to do and he modified his approach and it’s been very successful.”