But he’s also an occasionally insufferable whiner who lives in an imaginary world in which NBA observers disrespect the Magic, underrate his star player and generally treat Orlando like a second-class NBA backwater.
Stan Van Gundy is a smart man, and he knows better.
Witness Stan’s ridiculous commentary on the fact that LeBron James will win the MVP award (via the Orlando Sentinel):
“You know how the vote’s going to go. LeBron (James) will win the MVP every year until he retires…
LeBron has to go into the year and basically lose the MVP. You guys have decided he’s the MVP. I don’t even know if Michael Jordan was as hyped as he is, and then [James] goes out and exceeds it.”
“[Defense] doesn’t translate into MVP voting. People look at it as it’s not as important … I don’t understand that.”
Stan is defending his guy, and that’s nice, and by itself this would not be worth any attention. But this comes after a year in which Van Gundy has complained about perceived slights that exist only in his mind and those of the most insecure Magic fans.
Also: It’s a completely ridiculous statement.
“You guys have decided he’s the MVP.”
No, Stan. LeBron is the MVP because he’s better than the other players in the league, including Dwight Howard, and 100 shot blocks into the 5th row won’t change that. Dwight Howard is a great player. I’ve praised him to high heaven on this blog. He’s the best defensive player in the league, and you could make a nice argument that he’s the No. 2 pick in the theoretical If You Were Starting A Franchise From Scratch Draft.
But he’s not the NBA MVP. And that’s not something “the media” decided.
Again: This is not an isolated incident. Not even a week ago Van Gundy complained that the media has been too critical of Dwight Howard’s league-high pile of technical fouls (via the Sentinel, again):
“There isn’t a guy in this league that doesn’t seem frustrated but when it’s Dwight everybody jumps on it. From the media at least, the national media, he gets a lot of criticism. A lot more than other guys who are no better than he is. I don’t understand it but he’s the whipping boy of the national media.”
I’m not sure who Van Gundy is talking about, but he’s wrong if he thinks Howard is receiving greater scrutiny than other big men who have accumulated so many technicals as to risk a regular-season suspension. It’s nice that Van Gundy defends his own players, but his act of accusing “the media,” as if there were monolithic “national media,” of conspiring to attack Dwight Howard is more tired than Rasheed Wallace after 10 consecutive minutes of playing time.
Alas, these remarks are only the most recent recent of Van Gundy’s 2009-2010 laments. Let’s reminisce together.
• When the NBA television schedule game out in August, Van Gundy was unhappy that the Magic had only 24 national TV appearances—one fewer than Cleveland’s 25. No other team had more. He had this to stay:
“For a team that went to the Finals, we really haven’t gotten the respect teams normally do. Based upon what we did last year, I think our players do feel a little under appreciated and under respected.”
“It was a lot of little things, and in the long run they’re not very important, but you feel it. Like the television schedule. Normally on Christmas Day, you get a rematch of the teams that played in the Finals. But instead, we get a Christmas Day matchup of the teams that they (TV executives) wanted to see in the Finals.”
It sounded ridiculous then, and it sounds ridiculous now.
“I’m a big basketball guy, but this is a day to spend time with your family. I actually feel sorry for people that have nothing better to do on Christmas Day than watch an NBA game. Hey, look, I mean, basketball’s very important to me obviously, but there are some days in the year where it’s got to take a back seat to something. But the league doesn’t feel that way, so . . .”
To review: Scheduling the Magic against Boston in the 2:30 slot on Christmas was an unfair slight to Orlando; the Magic deserved a marquis slot, preferably against the Lakers in the evening. A few months later: Playing on Christmas is stupid, nobody should have to do it and you’re sort of a loser if you’re watching the games.
• In between those two comments, Van Gundy told the Sentinel he was unsatisfied with how everyone in “the media” had portrayed the 2009 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, in which Orlando defeated Boston in seven games. Keep in mind: These comments came six months after that series ended. Here they are:
“We didn’t have Jameer either,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy noted. “People just leave that out. You would think by reading the accounts of that series last year that it was the Celtics without Kevin Garnett and the full-strength Orlando Magic.”
Ah, those “people,” disrespecting Orlando again.
Two things really bug me about this stuff. First: Stan Van Gundy is a great coach. I can’t emphasize this enough. He has done remarkable work with both Miami and Orlando. But if he keeps on going like this—and if he never wins an NBA title—the whining is going to tarnish Van Gundy’s legacy and our collective memory of him as a coach.
Every coach complains. People expect Phil Jackson to drop a strategic complaint about the refs in the middle of a tough playoff series. Coaches at all levels play the “It’s us against the world!” game.
But Van Gundy does it more than most, and he does it with an anger and insecurity that are below him. Jackson complains with a knowing smirk. Stan just whines.
Second: He knows better. Van Gundy is a brilliant guy. He reads a lot, he understands advanced stats and he watches a ton of games. The dude knows what’s going on in the NBA world, and he knows very well that anybody who knows the league respects and fears the Magic.
By whining about “the media” and “the people” disrespecting Orlando, he’s lumping everyone into one category of biased fans who don’t bother to do their homework or look past their pre-conceived notions. He’s conflating you, me and John Hollinger with the guys who still think LeBron is overrated because he hasn’t won a ring.
Stan, I’m begging you: Stop whining. Most of us are above it, especially you, and the only thing it’s accomplishing is to make you look pathetic.