Jeff Van Gundy Rumors
Oddsmakers don’t seem to believe in the New York Knicks, setting their over-under wins line at 38.5. But if you listen to former Knicks coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, that number appears far too low. “It’s not easy,” Van Gundy said during an interview on The Stashed’s 33rd & 7th podcast with Anthony Donahue (via ESPN.com’s Ian Begley). “Listen, I think they’re going to be 45 to 50 [wins], low 50s, in that range.”
Jeff Van Gundy: As great of a player as Yao was, he was kind and patient with everybody. He wasn’t trying to feed an image, or cultivate a brand, or manipulate a public persona. There is a goodness about Yao that is unique, that never left him through all the pain and injuries and disappointments that accompanied his unprecedented accomplishments and successes. I have heard some people disparaging Yao’s credentials for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame, and it bothers me. Yes, I know there are important factors beyond his shortened playing career – the bridge he built to the Far East for the NBA, the massive impact he’s had on growing the game’s popularity and finances. That’s all part of the induction, yes, but no one should lose sight of this fact: Outside of Shaq, Yao Ming was the best center in the world.
Jeff Van Gundy: Kwame Brown turned to our bench, and yelled to our assistant coach, Patrick Ewing: “Your boy is tired!” Yao heard the opposing center and said nothing. No reaction. Well, I couldn’t help myself. “Of course he’s tired,” I yelled to Brown. “He’s tired because he’s been busting your ass all game.” You could see the grin on Yao’s face. He had such a fantastic sense of humor.
During a trip to his hometown of Shanghai for a preseason game, Yao was almost giddy as he took a minivan full of friends on a personal tour of his roots in the vast city. The small group, which included then-coach Jeff Van Gundy, strolled through the courtyard of the apartment building where Yao grew up and visited his primary school, where he learned to read and write and took his very first shot attempt at the basket outside in the playground. “Another airball,” cracked wiseguy Van Gundy when Yao tried to re-create the youthful attempt. “Hey, coach,” Yao replied wryly, “have you ever carried your country’s flag in the Olympics?”
It was one of the biggest meetings of Sprewell’s life—the result of which could lead to the Knicks trading for the then-29-year-old, giving him a second chance and changing the course of his career—and Van Gundy expected the Wisconsin native to be dressed to the nines, ready to court his newest suitors. Sprewell wore red basketball shorts and a wife beater. “I was immediately impressed by that, in an odd way,” Van Gundy says now. “I immediately knew that this guy is who he is. He was never trying to impress somebody else by what he did or what he said—he was being himself.”
What happened when Tomjanovich stepped down and Jeff Van Gundy took over as head coach? Steve Francis: The whole momentum shifted to “stop that ball,” buddy. Just dump it into Yao every play. What Steve do? Dump the ball into Yao. Was Steve mad? Hell yeah. Did Steve say something? Hell no. Respect for that owner who gave me that money. He said, Here Steve, $100 million. Alright, I’m not going to disrespect that man’s business. That’s his business, not the coach who doesn’t know that the owner gave me the opportunity to have a stable home and a bag of money. So I’m cool.
What happened with that infamous Super Bowl incident when Van Gundy suspended you? Steve Francis: He said I went to the Super Bowl. I’m in the house, I had a G-4 waiting at the clearport after the Super Bowl in Houston. I said Hey, I got a plane on the runway, I’ll come after the Super Bowl, and I’ll meet you the same night in Phoenix. Cool. The team left—I stayed in my house, all my friends came over. I had a Super Bowl party at my house. Then I get on the plane, I got some Popeye’s on there, got some Dom Perignon on there, everything’s straight. I’m ready. My phone ringin’ like shit, all my teammates calling me. They’re like, You know Jeff mad? I’m like for what? They’re like, You ain’t on the plane. I say, Y’all heard me tell him I had my own plane right? They’re like Yeah, but now he’s mad. I was like, Alright cool, I’ll see y’all tonight. After that Jeff said, Don’t come. I was like Why don’t come? My plane’s on the runway. He was like, Nah don’t come, you should have been on the team plane. I was like I told you I got a plane. He said don’t come, so I stayed, and the next day I went to practice—I was mad, I knew the media was going to say I was there [at the Super Bowl].