Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy pumps his fist in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. (Source: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
The Golden State Warriors fired Mark Jackson on Tuesday, and now it’s time for management to find the right coach for this team.
One of the top candidates to become the Warriors’ head coach is Stan Van Gundy. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported last night that the Warriors have already contacted Van Gundy about taking over as head coach.
As a head coach, Van Gundy has a career record of 579-371, and his teams have reached the playoffs in each of the eight seasons he was a head coach.
In addition to those impressive numbers, in his five seasons as the head coach of the Orlando Magic between 2007-2012, he had a .657 winning percentage, 31 playoff wins, four 50-win seasons, three Southeast Division titles, and one Eastern Conference title.
Van Gundy clearly has had success as a head coach, but he also could be a great fit for the Warriors. He values defense, which is important for the Warriors given the fact that they just recently transformed into an effective defensive team.
According to Eddy Rivera of Magicbasketball.net, Van Gundy has a defense-first mindset, and he always demanded perfection on defense.
“Van Gundy demanded consistent execution, energy, and effort on defense. And he usually got it. Defense was Van Gundy’s currency in all aspects. For the players, it netted them playing time. For the Magic, it netted them wins.”
Offensively, Van Gundy employed a smart, efficient system in Orlando. There’s no guarantee that he would run the same offensive system for the Warriors that he did for the Magic, but if he decided to, it could be a fairly smooth transition for this Warriors team.
The basic principle of his offense was to exploit Dwight Howard’s strength and ability to post-up and surround him with three-point shooters. By having a threat down low, opposing defenses had to pay extra attention to post-ups or they had to double team, which allowed shooters to spread the floor and get more open looks from three.
Now, the Warriors don’t have a Howard-esque player on their team. Andrew Bogut is an elite center defensively, but his offensive talents haven’t been utilized in his time with the Warriors. Van Gundy could decide to integrate Bogut more offensively, which would loosen up the opposing defense more.
Van Gundy would make the proper adjustments to not having a dominant offensive center, and he would certainly get the most out of the Warriors’ ability to shoot threes. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are arguably the best shooting backcourt in the NBA, and Van Gundy would find ways to get them easier looks.
One way he might do this would be to use a stretch four, or a small forward who can shoot threes playing as the power forward. He used this approach in Orlando with Rashard Lewis, and the Magic’s use of a stretch four was one of the reasons why they were so successful in Van Gundy’s tenure.
There are many benefits to starting a stretch four. First of all, it makes the pick-and-roll harder to defend, which would greatly benefit the Warriors because they run so many pick-and-rolls. During a pick-and-roll between a center and a point guard, for example, the stretch four would be able to spread the floor and possibly get more open looks from three if spaced correctly.
Also, having a stretch four on the floor gives the center more room to post up and work in the paint. This puts more pressure on the defense to defend a post-up, which frees up more three-point shots. The Warriors were one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA last season, so they could certainly benefit from using a small ball lineup with a stretch four more, as we saw in the playoffs.
Van Gundy’s use of pick-and-rolls also benefitted players who had trouble creating their own shot, which many of the Warriors’ players struggle with. When the center is setting hard, effective screens and shooters maintain the proper spacing of the floor, the pick-and-roll becomes even more effective and rewards players with more catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Van Gundy knows how to maximize talent, as seen in the adjustments he made for Lewis and Howard. Perhaps he could help bring back Harrison Barnes’ confidence and get the most out of his talent. Van Gundy also might be more open to starting Draymond Green as a stretch four and getting Barnes more minutes as a stretch four than another coach would.
Van Gundy is a fantastic and proven NBA coach. His teams are always well-prepared and well-coached. Although he’s been known to be demanding of his players and relentless at times, he showed a looser, more positive side of himself later on in his time with the Magic.
He expects the best from his players, and often, he gets the best out of them, kind of like Gregg Popovich. His approach is very different from Jackson in that sense, but that could be a good thing. Van Gundy might be the perfect coach for this Warriors team.