NBA Rumor: Stan Van Gundy Fired

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Stan Van Gundy: David Griffin was focused on happiness of people, less on on-court results

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“I felt that the focus should be on what went on on the court,” Van Gundy said. “What was good. What was bad. All of that. I think Griff was concerned with the atmosphere around the team and the happiness of people and things like that. I think that was probably the biggest difference. If I would’ve gone into a meeting and somebody were to say, ‘Hey, you were 31-41, and that’s not good enough,’ I have no problem with that. That’s what we sign up for in this business. Regardless of circumstances, that’s what we sign up for in this business. But that’s not what it came down to or what I heard.”

Stan Van Gundy: 'Zion's no coach killer'

“I know this, regardless of what happened in that regard, Zion’s no coach killer. He’s a guy who is gonna help you win a lot of games. He plays the game the right way. One of the things I’ll miss is the opportunity to continue to coach him. He’s so unique in the way that he plays the game and the things that he can do, it really gets your mind spinning as a coach and you have a lot of possibilities in what you can do with him. That was fun to explore. I’m happy with what we did with Zion. I think we helped him. How anyone else felt about that would be up to them.”

“I don’t know anything about that,” Van Gundy said. “In my mind, I liked coaching Zion. I had a good relationship with him. I had no problem. I think we elevated his platform that we gave him. We put him in different situations, had him handling the ball a lot, playing a lot of point guard. I think we did some good things with him. “If they were unhappy, I didn’t hear about it. Zion was unhappy with us not winning more games, but Zion never expressed to me any of that. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t unhappy, it’s possible that they were unhappy with me and that’s what led to the change.”

For months, sources from all NBA corners have pointed to the Pelicans as a heap of dysfunction. There was a growing unease between Van Gundy and his players, and Van Gundy and the New Orleans front office, which came to a head Wednesday with the veteran coach and organization agreeing to part ways with three years left on his contract. Most of the attention, however, from numerous sources across the league, has centered on Williamson’s family members’ thinly veiled unhappiness with the Pelicans, and whether those feelings seeped into the player’s own views.

The Pels made changes to their support staff to fit Williamson’s wishes over the offseason, and he returned in much better physical condition. But for most of this season, certain Williamson family members voiced displeasure with the organization. Among the targets of their criticism was Van Gundy, who they felt was too rigid and demanding as head coach, but also with the organization, which they claim did not live up to what they felt should be the standard for a star like Williamson. Numerous opposing league executives had heard the complaints, and they were confirmed by Pelicans officials.

On a late-season bus trip, Van Gundy was venting frustrations to an assistant after a loss. According to Van Gundy, someone who overheard the conversation reported back to Griffin that Van Gundy was so frustrated that he might not return. Also, leading up to the final weekend of the regular season, a meeting between Van Gundy and Griffin did not go well — with dozens of sources chatting about it after it happened.

“On behalf of Mrs. Gayle Benson and the Pelicans organization, I would like to thank Stan for the integrity and professionalism that he demonstrated during his time in New Orleans, as well as the commitment and work ethic he brought to our team,” said Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin. “This was a difficult decision as I have tremendous respect for Stan both personally and professionally, but we agreed it is in the best interest of our team to move forward in a different direction. We wish Stan, Kim and their family all the best in the future.”
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