Stan Van Gundy Resigns as Head Coach - Press Conference
Micky Arison: The three of us are going to have comments to make, so I would appreciate it if you hold your questions until the three of us have the opportunity to speak.
Stan Van Gundy: This morning I voluntarily resigned my position as Head Coach of the HEAT. I said this to Micky and I debated whether to say this on the way down here and I only mean it halfway joking is the two things that nobody here is going to care about are the truth and the facts, but Im going to try to tell you how I came to the decision anyways. First of all, I am proud to say I will be remaining with the HEAT organization. I had no desire to leave here or to coach elsewhere. If I was going to continue to coach, I wanted it to be in Miami. I absolutely love coaching this team, I love this organization. I made this decision for one reason and one reason only, I love my family more. Those you who know me, I have a wonderful wife and four amazing kids. I dont think they need me, this wasnt some heroic decision. They are doing fine without me, I need them. I need some time to be with them. When I first approached this, and I left Pat (Riley) a note, I said there are 170 days in the regular season, and at the beginning of every year since I came to the NBA, I looked at the calendar and I knocked off days when Im actually going to see my family and for this year, its pretty typical, it comes down to 49 days out of 170. Its beyond the travel; you have to understand I dont see my family on the days of home games. I leave in the morning before they get up and when I get home at night theyre in bed. And thats not 49 off-days, thats 49 times when I get home in the afternoon and see them for a couple hours before they go to bed and over time, thats just not enough anymore for me. Its been like that for my kids entire lives. Ive got a 14 year old daughter and it started to hit me when I started thinking about her birthday, which was last month, that Ive got four more years left with her and then shell be off to college. And Im just not willing to sacrifice any more. The other moment, and there have been several, was when my son went with two other kids and their fathers to the game, they have my five seats up there and I looked up there before the game and waved and I thought, you know what, I want to be up there, not down here; sitting with my son at the game, enjoying the game and not down here. After practice on Saturday, which I still love, I love the coaching part of it and after a game like last night, Im not going to tell you Im not going to miss that. If I could ideally have it where I could continue coaching and still see my family every night and our road games could be like high school games, where wed go to like North Miami and play in Homestead tomorrow night, but it came down to a choice and for me the choice was clear. I think this whole thing really stinks, I mean were 21 games into the year and it really puts Pat in a tough position. Even as opposed to most times where people take over, when I took over for him I had been at practice every day with systems put in, youre there every day, so this is a difficult situation, it makes our team have another adjustment. That part I regret, but this has been going on for six weeks. I talked to Pat the first time after the second game of the year and Pats actually spent the last six weeks trying to convince me to think about it more and more and just keep thinking whether this was really something that I wanted to do. We finally met the day before the Clippers game for three or four hours, lightened with some good Mexican food and he tried to convince me to stay. And as much as I appreciate that and the confidence he had in me, like everyone else doesnt change the time I spend away from my family. Pat and Micky have been incredible in this and really have been for 11 years in the opportunities they have given me here and the success to be able to be a part of the memories I have had. I cant thank them enough for all the things I have been able to do here. They have really stepped up. They could have said, fine you dont want to coach and youre out the door, youre gone. But they have been supportive for one, in making sure that I thought through the situation and two in giving me the opportunity to remain within the HEAT organization and to be able to keep my family in Miami, I couldnt appreciate it more what has been done for me by both of these men. The last couple of things here, I wanted to say is that I am extremely thankful for the opportunity that I have had to coach the players that I have been able to coach for the past 10-plus years here in Miami. We have been blessed with great people here and especially for this years team. A lot has been said about those guys coming in. This has been great. There hasnt been any resistance or any problems. Its a group of guys trying to get it together, get it right through injuries, its a team that has worked extremely hard and if I didnt have to be away from my family, I would have enjoyed coaching. And finally Im just grateful for the people I have on my staff, Bob McAdoo, Keith Askins, Erik Spoelstra and Ron Rothstein. People have been extremely supportive. I wish the players, the organization, Pat especially and Micky nothing but success. I will continue to contribute in a very limited way, but I will also be a huge HEAT fan all the way.
MA: I just want to give you a sense of the timeline that I was aware of. Im very grateful that Stan decided to stay with the organization. I think he will continue to be a great asset to the organization. First I became aware of it after the Philadelphia game. Pat gave me a sealed envelope and asked me to read it and give him a call to discuss what was in it. I took it with me and it was basically a letter outlining everything Stan just said to you. I called Pat after that and suggested he make the change immediately. That was before the trip to Toronto. Pat preferred that I have the opportunity to meet with Stan and discuss it with him. About a week later we met after a game for about an hour and basically Stan said the same thing he told you now. After that I discussed with Pat that I thought we should make the change and Pat said let me continue to talk to Stan and this went on for about two weeks. Two days ago, just before team was in L.A., I again checked in with Pat and asked how its going and said that Im personally confused because Id like to get this issue resolved. Pat assured me absolutely before the Clippers game that he would get this thing resolved once and for all, apparently thats the point that the two had agreed to decide this and thats why we are here today. Again, I think we have here two terrific coaches, one Hall of Fame coach and one very, very successful Head Coach. I think Stan has done an absolutely terrific job over the past few years and Im thrilled that he is going to stay within the organization. So now I will introduce the new Head Coach, Pat Riley.
Pat Riley: Two years ago, I stood up here and stepped aside from something that Ive done for 21 years and put it in the hands of someone that I had incredible respect for. Also he has worked very diligently and very hard at the craft and I thought it was his opportunity to have his chance. I was very, very, very, very, very happy for him at that time absolutely happy and ecstatic he was going to be able to achieve whatever he wanted to achieve to become an NBA head coach. Not many jobs, there arent many men who get the opportunity, and he did that. He did that extraordinarily well. He says hes put me in a bad position. I think it was four days before the start of the regular season a couple of years ago that I handed him the team. To watch him coach and grow and go through a very difficult time leading the team back to the playoffs, what was really the turnaround of this franchise leading last years team to 59 wins and going to the Eastern Conference Finals. We all know the 125 seconds or whatever of what could have been the ultimate dream for him which is the world championship. I was happy for him when I hired him 11 years ago, I was happy for him when I stepped aside and gave him an opportunity that was well deserved and Im happy for him today.
I just tried to figure out 940 times he has done the board. I remember the pre-game board. When I hired Randy Pfund out in Los Angeles, I knew I was going to hire him as an assistant coach because he does his homework and he bought soft chalk, not hard chalk. The soft chalk on a blackboard really looks nice. When I hired Stan, we had Scottie Robinson, and I had Scottie do the board. I love Scottie, but I couldnt read (his handwriting) so I had Stan do the board the next day and it was a piece of art. I took a picture of the board, and I have the picture in my office that I give to people and say, Thats how you do an NBA pre-game board. I said, Scottie. I think Im going to have Stan do the board. Scottie said fine. Then Scottie went over to Stan and said, What? You think I was going to do the board all year long?
SVG: True story. True Story.
PR: Nine hundred and forty times somebody has done the board. Now thats a very important point on my part. Im truly happy that he has chosen Shannon, Michael, Alison and Kelly.
Pat, are you looking beyond this season? You have said previously that at your age traveling and the grueling nature of an NBA season was something that you wanted to get away from. Was it a difficult decision? Are you looking at it as since youre back in it, youre back in it to win a championship?
PR: I went out to Los Angeles for three reasons. The first one was to talk to Stan, the second one was to visit a hip replacement clinic and the third one was to go to a Malibu commissioners meeting for final approval for a house that Im going to build there one day and I got it. I have an obligation to this franchise and to Micky. Im going to definitely put off my hip replacement surgery, without a doubt. I have a responsibility to this team and the players that Ive traded for. I think right now at this moment, Im the best person to do that. As far as the other things that go into the game, I can handle that. I talked to Kim (Van Gundy) last night at the office and Kim said, Thank you for giving my husband back. And my wife said, Well, thank you for allowing me to lose mine. It goes both ways. I can handle it.
When you put this team together, it was your vision of what you wanted. Is it easier as the role as team president to implement your vision as coach as opposed as through Stan?
PR: Its not going to change much. First of all, whatever vision that Ive had has always been passed to Stan, has always been passed to Micky. They dont always agree with it, but Ive been hired to make decisions and the future of this team is based on those decision. Once you listen and talk about it, the second piece of that work is to pull the trigger. Since its been up to me to make that decision, thats what I did. Stan and I have always been in accord on when I was to pull the trigger. Whether it was my vision or our vision or what I think what the team should look like, were a helluva a lot better off than we were a few years ago and thats all that counts.
When you first heard about this with Stan, was there anyone else considered as head coach? Were you excited about the possibilities of becoming head coach?
PR: No, not at all. That wasnt my motivation at all. For six weeks I tried to convince him to stay on. Period. Thats it. I dont like change. I dont like a lack of continuity. I think he was the best man for the job. Theres always change during the off season, but during the season, I dont like this kind of change. Especially with me, I think I know my way around a 94x50 court. I know what Im doing when Im out there, but right now Im a little bit lost. Im going to depend a lot on the staff that we have. No. I really wasnt looking at replacements. I was hinking about getting him to reconsider.
Stan, the season is only 21 games old, but if the record would have been better would that have influenced your decision to stay?
SVG: No. Heres what happened. I can tell you again. My first contact with Pat was after the Memphis game, when we won by 20, that we needed to meet the next day. Pat asked me to take more time. After we had won four in a row, Pat said to me after the fourth one, Well, you have to be feeling better now? I said, Pat, I dont feel any different. Im obviously happy we won, but I dont feel any different. When Im at home and I can have practice and be with my kids. I love my job. I absolutely love my job, its the best job in the world, professionally. But it comes at a cost. Like last night, I felt great after the game, but halfway to Chicago today on the plane, I would have went back to feeling the same way again. We all miss our families when were away for a long time, but it got to me and it was literally painful. Im just missing them so much. Im not willing to do that anymore. I cant believe people have that big a problem believing someone would actually want to spend time with his family. I dont know why thats so hard for people to believe or to buy into. It seems like it is. I havent talked to many people, but I have everyone trying to urge me to reconsider. My wife is even wondering what the heck Im going to do, just wanting me to make sure, but Im pretty comfortable with my decision.
Pat, you used the word obligation. Do you take this job with the enthusiasm that you once had?
PR: Ill get back into it quickly. Thats what you do. You have an opportunity to get back into something that youve done for 22 years. I havent looked a playbook, I havent done any Xs and Os, I havent looked at game film for various reason. I havent been on the court, I havent been in the locker room, I havent met with players that much other than with Stans permission or with him. Ive never ventured into that area because thats his domain. I know the domain and I know it very well. Once I get back into it, I have a job to do. Players inspire coaches to inspire players. Coaches do what they have to do to get the job done. Yes, I will get back into it as fast as I can.
Stan and Pat, how was the mood when you told the players of this news?
SVG: I talked to them 9:30 this morning and told them of my decision and gave them basically the same reasons I gave you. Like Im sure most locker rooms are where you make those type of announcements, it was stone silence. It was pretty much like that when Pat made the same announcement a couple of years ago. I shook hands with everyone. Guys had a few words to say. Nothing major. I didnt take the time to meet with them individually or anything.
I noticed on the board it said 9:30 for the players to meet. Did you know last night that you were going to make this decision?
Yeah, we did know last night that we were going to do this. We didnt tell them last night, we just brought them in to tell them that we were going to meet early and fly, which we have done several times in the past. Weve played four games in five nights, weve done it several times meet, watch film, get on the plane and go. Thats all we told them last night that they were going to come in in the morning and meet.
Why not make this decision in the off-season?
SVG: In the off-season youre home everyday with your family, so at that time it feels great. Then you get back into it. We took that one trip during the preseason when we were gone for a week and it started to hit me then. Then a week later when the regular season started, thats when I brought it up to Pat because thats when I started to feel it. I regret the timing, it stinks, the timing of it stinks. I wish I could have made the decision in the off-season, but during the off-season you dont feel like this, everything is good. Im seeing my family everyday in the off-season. When I got about a month before my daughters 14th birthday thats when it really hit, Im saying that I have four more years. Her whole life has been the Miami HEAT, it has run her life too. I just didnt want to keep going like that.
Even with Shaq out, do you feel like the team has underachieved?
PR: The team is a mess. We talked about this, because of injuries, Shaq not being there for 18 games, Jason Williams being out and various other things like new guys changing roles. I think the team has a chance for greatness, I really do. I believe Stan believed that. I dont want to make any excuses; we have never been about that around here. Injuries are part of the game and we havent had our team together this year. Saying that, I do believe that this team is going to have to make a decision on whether or not they want to be part of greatness. Its not about winning a championship, thats just a symbol. Players that care want to be part of a great team, they want that experience. With that comes residual rewards, maybe a championship. You need to be willing to be part of a great team or make it a great team, sacrifice and do things that you may have never done before and I think Stan was very clear about that all year long. Thats the educational process that we started the team on during the summer, back during training camp and through the first six weeks of the season. I dont know how good this team can be if we, one day, get everybody really healthy and on the same page. I am very disappointed in the fact that Jason, who was really coming on, is going to be down for a while. That to me is what has made the team a mess, the injuries.
SVG: In fairness to our players, I dont think they have been represented right. People talk about Shaq being out and that we should still have won games. Well with just Shaq out, this team was 7-5. This team is 2-4 when two starters have been out. That is something nobody has talked about. When your missing Shaq, thats one thing, but when your missing both Shaq and Posey or Shaq and Jason Williams thats different and I dont like the way people have jumped on some of our players. If you take the San Antonio Spurs and take Tim Duncan and Tony Parker out, then you tell me, are they 15-3? You dont win just because you show-up every night. These guys are battling and they need to get better. There are some things that need to get better, theres no question about that and they will get better. I dont think the facts have been represented to be quite honest.
Is there any underlying reason for this? Is there a family illness or personal illness or is it simply time with family, end of story?
SVG: Its that, end of story. Some people think Im ill in a lot of ways, but other than that, no. The facts will back this up; people will speculate that Im getting forced out. Number one, and I think you would have to agree; at least as coaches go, Ive been very honest. Number two, I dont think that anybody in here believes that Im a total idiot. If I was getting forced out, I would have gotten absolutely every dollar on my contract and walked out the door. That is not what happened here. I was flattered that they still wanted me in the organization. Im staying here and glad to be a part of it. Ill contribute in any way that I can. Anybody that believes otherwise has to do so in total disregard to the facts of the situation even though I know that hasnt detoured many of you in the past anyway, but youll have to do that again if thats the storyline you want to take.
PR: I havent given it that much thought to be honest with you because this wasnt my intention. I said I havent looked at the playbook or concentrated on Xs and Os. I evaluated the team in a different standpoint when I watch it. I believe what Stan has done here over the last two years is basically in accordance with our whole philosophical approach with the Miami HEAT. Hes implemented his own style, his own philosophy, his own approach, his own voice a lot of different things that men bring to the table. Im proud of what hes done. Im proud of the fact that were considered a first class organization a team that works hard, that gets after it every night, that cares. Players come here and change. There hasnt been any disruption, anybody speaking out in the press, suspended those types of things. Theres a genuine respect with our organization which I believe has been well earned and one that Stan has upheld.
Looking back on your tenure, is there anything that youre proud youve accomplished or regret?
SVG: No, not in that regard. Game Seven last year against Detroit that will obviously stick with me a long time, but I have a lot better memories. I wouldnt say things Im proud of but I was a part of the experiences that Ive had here in coaching, the people Ive been able to coach and working with Pat and things that have happened to me, I would have never thought in my wildest dreams from where Ive come from. Its been a major positive and probably the biggest positive, to be quite honest, has been my relationship with Pat. A lot of you colored it with one thing that happened this summer. We met and that was it and I dont think our relationship since that meeting (has suffered). You got to understand that when I wrote Pat a note in this regard, I came in as an unknown, fired college coach. Thats what I came here as. With the opportunity that hes given me and with Pats leadership, mentorship and guidance, I got incredible opportunities and I became a respectable NBA head coach. Its been a great experience and Im eternally grateful. Myself, my family the blessings we have financially and everything else are attributable to Pat and what hes done for me. The only thing that I regret is putting him into this situation 21 games into the year. Thats the only real regret that I have.
Are you surprised that you feel as strongly as you do?
SVG: Im not surprised by it, because it grows gradually over time. Over time, it gets harder and harder to get on the plane. Coaches will all understand this, fans may not, and it just grew overtime. It got to a point where it got to be absolutely painful. I really felt, more than anything that I was running out of time with my family. As much as I want to be with all of them, its really my two oldest ones and really my oldest daughter, I look and say, Ive got four more years, thats it and then shes off to college. My six year old, I could coach another four years and have some time with her, but my 14-year old, theres not a lot of time. I think a lot of my friends in coaching around the country are going to be shocked because I think everybody looked at me as a lifer, but priorities change over time. Its not a lack of passion for coaching, I still love it, but not for the sacrifice you have to make.
Did you ever have a chance to discuss your feelings with your brother, Jeff?
SVG: Absolutely and because he had done it, he was able to give me a great perspective. He did the same thing that Pat did, basically in telling me to really take time and think it through. He was also really sort of able to go through on how his feelings went and he told me that during the first couple weeks to a month, I was going to have a lot of second thoughts. Your going to turn the game on TV and your going to wonder and miss it because it has been so much a part of your life. But then youre going to really enjoy having that time with the family. The question that I have always had for him was, why did you go back? He would have to answer that, but that has always been my question.
Do you plan on taking time off and in what capacity would you be involved in the organization?
SVG: It could be anything, but right now Im going to be watching a lot of NBA games and writing my thoughts of personnel. I think Im in a good position to do that, I have a lot of time to do it and I can watch a lot of games because I dont have any other responsibilities. I think Pat obviously has respect for my opinion and so does Randy Pfund and they will use me however they can. Im just going to watch a lot of games and give my opinion. We have sort of left it open ended on basically anything else the organization wants done. He told me I could have a couple of weeks here of doing nothing. My first priority is going to actually enjoy the Christmas season. Somebody told me its upon us now. Since the lockout year, I have never been a part of it. Im going out to look at Christmas lights tonight with my daughters so that is priority number one. After the New Year, Ill get to work on film and if they have specific things, Ill do that. I want to help in any way that I can while still being able to spend time with my family.
Do you think that you are done with coaching?
SVG: Again, I love coaching. Its definitely a possibility, but you could see me anywhere. You could see me coaching at Southwood Middle School or some high school around here or anywhere else. I love to coach and Im sure Ill coach, but it may not be anywhere youll ever notice.