New Orleans Pelicans Head Coach Tournament: Jeff Van Gundy vs Mark Jackson

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Published: May 18, 2015

The Case for Jeff van Gundy

by: Mason Ginsberg

9 full seasons as a NBA head coach. 8 playoff appearances. 430-318 (.575) career record. Only one losing season (mainly because Yao Ming & Tracy McGrady both missed significant time).

Want a coach who knows what it takes to win? Look no further than Jeff Van Gundy. At only 53 years of age, he is at a pretty ideal point for a guy with so much proven success in the league (for comparison’s sake, Thibodeau is 57 and Gentry is 60). Van Gundy is old enough to have plenty of meaningful experiences under his belt, but young enough to realistically coach the Pelicans for the next 10-15 years without “burning out” or needing to retire.

Van Gundy’s most valuable trait is his ability to coach up a defense, regardless of personnel. For example –

JVG-coached team defensive rating rankings: 2nd, 4th, 4th, 6th, 3rd, 5th, 4th, 6th, 3rd

You’re reading that correctly. In his 9 full seasons as a NBA head coach (five with the Knicks and four with the Rockets), his teams have never finished worse than 6th in the league in defensive rating. The numbers speak for themselves, people – you want to right the ship on the defensive end? Van Gundy is the man for the job, as he gives you the excellent coaching without wearing on his players like Thibodeau is known for doing.

Van Gundy has also shown a strong ability throughout his NBA career to be pretty versatile on the offensive end. Want proof?

JVG-coached team 3-point attempts per game rankings: 17th, 20th, 9th, 21st, 20th, 14th, 6th, 7th, 14th, 3rd

Typically, you will see coaches routinely rank either near the top or bottom of the league based on their offensive style. As you can see, that is not the case with Van Gundy, as he has clearly shown the ability to reinvent his offensive game plan based on the roster he has at his disposal. Have an elite scoring big man like Patrick Ewing? Pound the ball inside. Have great 3-point shooters like Luther Head, David Wesley, or Shane Battier who get a ton of open looks playing alongside Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming? Tell them to fire away. While Jeff Van Gundy is certainly more known for his defense than his offense, he has always been able to adjust the offense based on his team’s skill sets.

One final point about Van Gundy’s candidacy – the man has experience coaching elite, unique big men. With 5 years of Patrick Ewing and 4 seasons of Yao Ming, he knows what it takes for front court players with varying skill sets to excel in the NBA. That kind of experience would be immensely valuable to a guy like Anthony Davis, who is always looking to add new elements to his game. The thought of JVG coaching AD is highly enticing to me, and it should be to each of you as well.

The Case for Mark Jackson

by: Ryan Schwan

Oh stop it.

Really.

You don’t think I see you rolling your eyes over there? Mouthing “Mark Jackson” and chortling to yourself about how stupid the idea is?

Well guess what? If you take just a moment to get past the hatchet job done on Mark Jackson by his former management team and look at actual results, you might be a bit surprised by the reality of Mark Jackson, Head Coach.

Jackson, a former All-Star point guard, coached the Golden State Warriors for three years, starting with the lockout season.  He took over a team that outperformed en route to 36 wins while posting only the 14th ranked offense and the 26th ranked defense.  He was fired after a season in which his team posted the 11th best offense and the 4th best defense – against the 4th toughest schedule in the league.  His team beat their opponents by an average of 4.8 points per game, just shy of the Contender Standard of 5.

He ushered in the transformation of a pretty crappy team to a pretty phenomenal one, and he did it on the back of the one thing most people are willing to give credit to coaches for:  Defense.  His team went from abysmal to elite.  Elite.  And people dismiss  him because he and the new management in place above him didn’t see eye to eye and when he was canned the Warriors carefully assassinated his character to all and sundry.

But that doesn’t take away what he did defensively for that Warriors team as he laid the foundation for this year’s 67 win team.

Now, what is our teams number one issue again?  Oh yeah!  Defense!

It’s also not just defensive philosophies that Jackson brings to the table either.  His players well and truly loved him.  When he was fired, Curry stated that it was “really hard” and “Coach Jackson . . . was such a great coach for us and elevated a lot of our individual games, and I’m proud of that and appreciate that.”  He was clearly upset by the firing of Jackson,  who could motivate, connect with, and teach young players and help them improve defensively.

If you were constructing a coach for this young team – wouldn’t your description be something similar to that?

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