The New Orleans Pelicans are hiring Stan Van Gundy as their new head coach, as ESPN reported. The two sides agreed to a four-year deal, per The Athletic.
Two assistant coaching candidates under consideration for Van Gundy’s staff are Ime Udoka and Charles Lee, league sources told HoopsHype. Udoka spent seven seasons as a Spurs assistant before joining the 76ers as an assistant coach last season. Lee has worked alongside Mike Budenholzer as an assistant dating back to the 2014-15 season with the Hawks and followed him to the Bucks.
The hiring of Van Gundy drew mixed reactions from executives and coaches around the league who spoke with HoopsHype on the condition of anonymity.
“Stan Van Gundy is used to controlling the roster, and so the dynamic with David Griffin could be interesting to follow,” an Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype. “I think he will be solid. Another issue will be how he is able to manage the broken-down relationship with regards to Zion Williamson and the performing staff.”
After an unsuccessful stint in a dual role as president and coach with the Pistons, Van Gundy will strictly coach the Pelicans. He’s won over 50 games five times during his 12 seasons as a head coach for the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons, and owns a career 523-384 record (.577 winning percentage).
Managing minutes for Williamson, who was limited to only 24 games last season due to knee surgery, will be a collective decision among Griffin, Trajan Langdon and Van Gundy moving forward. In July, Van Gundy tweeted about the impact Williamson has when he’s healthy.
How good can NO be? Well, since Zion came back they were 11-9 and ranked 11th offensively and 8th defensively. And they have 8 guys 25 or younger (Zion, Ingram, Ball, Hart, Jackson, Hayes, Alexander-Walker and Okafor). Pelicans fans have to be excited.
— Stan Van Gundy (@realStanVG) July 13, 2020
“It’s a good move from an accountability standpoint,” one NBA scout told HoopsHype. “They were too inconsistent the past few years in terms of playing hard and cohesiveness.”
New Orleans hopes Van Gundy can improve their team defensive rating after his last three Pistons teams finished in the top half of the NBA in defensive rating. Last season, the Pelicans ranked 21st in defensive rating (111.8).
“I think Stan is good,” another Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype. “Just focusing on coaching, he would build up good habits in the younger players. Coaches like him tend to have a shelf life of four or five years where the voice wears off.”
To the executive’s point, Van Gundy spent three seasons in Miami, five seasons in Orlando, and four seasons in Detroit.
Some around the league question whether his most recent stint in Detroit shows relating to a younger generation of players could be an issue for Van Gundy.
“It doesn’t move the needle for me,” one Western Conference assistant coach told HoopsHype. “I didn’t think Stan would get another job. I know they want structure and accountability, but a 61-year-old, non-former player connecting with a 20-year-old Zion, 22-year-old Lonzo Ball, and 23-year-old Brandon Ingram wouldn’t exactly be my move. Thought they’d push harder for Jason Kidd, personally.”
“He’s like (Tom) Thibodeau,” an Eastern Conference assistant coach told HoopsHype. “The stripes are the same.”
Both Van Gundy and Thibodeau are considered old school coaches who practice hard and demand discipline and accountability from their players.
Looking ahead, Griffin and Van Gundy have a core of Williamson, Ingram (restricted free agent), Jrue Holiday, Ball, Jaxon Hayes, and JJ Redick, four picks in the upcoming draft along with the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions to use in free agency.
Time will tell if Williamson, Ingram, Ball, Hayes, and the other young players will buy into Van Gundy or tune him out as players did at times during his Pistons tenure.
“He’s a very good coach, but I don’t know if he fits with the players on the team,” a long-time Western Conference executive noted.
Knowing this is likely his final chance at a head coaching job, Van Gundy proved to Pelicans management he’s learned from his previous experience in Detroit and believes he can help New Orleans’ young core take the next step.
“I’m excited to join a talented New Orleans Pelicans team,” Van Gundy tweeted. “It will be an honor to work with our players and to work for Mrs. Benson and David Griffin, Trajan Langdon, their staff and the great people of New Orleans. I can’t wait to talk to our players and get the process started.”
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto