Despite some decent credibility from prior successful head coaching stints with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, it seems Van Gundy has lost his touch in recent years. His time with the Detroit Pistons produced just one playoff berth in four seasons, and he hadn’t coached since 2018 before taking New Orleans’ job.
Van Gundy’s grating, demanding leadership style and the Pelicans’ inconsistency on the way to a 31-41 record likely led to the abrupt change, but it’s certainly not an ideal situation for New Orleans.
Zion Williamson is one of the NBA’s rising superstars. He’ll already be on his third different full-time head coach in as many seasons entering 2021-22.
It’ll be fascinating to see who the Pelicans bring in to lead the locker room after Van Gundy clearly lost it. There was reportedly “tension” between Van Gundy and the players during the 2020-21 campaign, and that obviously didn’t help the coach’s cause to stay.
New Orleans certainly represents an attractive coaching vacancy for prospective candidates, with Zion and Brandon Ingram as legitimate young stars to build around. It’s a big offseason for the Pels, though, and restricted Lonzo Ball’s future will likely depend on how the team’s new coach views him as a system fit.