Back in May of 2015, the New Orleans Pelicans had narrowed their choices for the head coaching vacancy to two names: Alvin Gentry and Jeff Van Gundy. Ultimately, Gentry was awarded the job, apparently for being the stronger applicant. News from several weeks ago very much now challenges that notion.
According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, Van Gundy will return to the NBA only if he receives similar control of a franchise as his brother did with the Detroit Pistons.
The Wizards are one of the situations that could appeal to a coach like Thibodeau or even former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks. A dark-horse name that has been mentioned in NBA circles is former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy; however, sources with knowledge of Van Gundy’s thinking say that he would require a similar situation similar to what his brother Stan got in Detroit, which is total franchise control. It’s doubtful that Wizards owner Ted Leonsis signs off on that.
Stan Van Gundy was hired by the Pistons to function as both the head coach and president of basketball operations. If Jeff is seeking a similar package, and who could blame him for desiring better job security as evidenced by the recent firing of David Blatt, this demand likely proved too large of an obstacle for the New Orleans organization. With the firing of Monty Williams but retention of Dell Demps during the last offseason, Tom Benson and his inner circle signaled they were not interested in a more encompassing candidate; thus, the clear option was Alvin Gentry.
This morning, Dan Feldman of NBA Sports insinuated that Van Gundy could still be in play because of two factors. One, the Pelicans have disappointed for much of this season and Demps' roster decisions deserve significant blame. Two, the organization gave greater control to Mickey Loomis last month, the Executive Vice President of the New Orleans Pelicans. His duty had always included overseeing the basketball operations, but it was widely assumed he was a hands-off manager, allowing Demps the freedom to operate. That hierarchy probably changed this past December.
If the Pelicans still have any remaining interest in Jeff Van Gundy, and vice versa, Mickey Loomis would welcome stepping aside as rival execs claim the current structure is only temporary. The problem isn't Demps anymore but Gentry. New Orleans signed him to a 4-year contract and he hasn't even finished his first season. Unless, something substantial were to happen between now and sometime next season, say players like Anthony Davis or Jrue Holiday voicing significant displeasure, logic dictates Gentry will be given until at least the midway point of the 2017 season to turn the Pelicans into a winner.
Sadly, this means that someone like Joe Dumars is probably closer to landing a job with the Pelicans than Jeff Van Gundy in the near future.