Magic Campers Get Authentic Van Gundy Coaching Experience

By John Denton
August 3, 2011

ORLANDO --Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was nervously stalking around the court, unable to stand still or contain his eagerness as he taught the fundamentals of basketball. And with each drill, his piercing voice seemed to rise in octaves and intensity.

Even though Van Gundy was instructing approximately 50 high school, middle school and elementary kids on Wednesday at the Orange County/Orlando Magic Recreational Center, he seemed to be working as hard as he would have been if he were getting the Magic ready for a key playoff game.

There was the sweat in his shirt, the fire in his voice and the detail that he poured into every aspect of the dribbling drills. Clearly, when coaching basketball, the Magic’s coach knows only one speed and his intensity burns only at white-hot levels.

``You do it sort of the way that you do it,’’ Van Gundy said with a shrug. ``But the challenge is when you have a large group like this is to keep everybody involved. That’s why stuff like ball-handling and passing drills are good because you can get more people going. I don’t like having people standing around. I know with myself (as a former college player), that’s what used to bore me to death.’’

There was little time to get bored on Wednesday as Van Gundy put the students at the Magic basketball camp presented by United Healthcare through the paces for more than an hour. Whereas some athletes might show up at a camp, give a few pointers, sign some autographs and generally goof off with the children, Van Gundy was clearly focused on using the session as a teaching moment.

Van Gundy put the campers through many of the same ball-handling drills that the Magic use at the start of their practices. And Van Gundy pulled no punches, getting in and demonstrating many of the drills such as the between-the-legs dribble, the stutter-step move and the behind-the-back wrap-around dribble.

He then stressed to the players that far too much time is spent on shooting and not nearly enough time is taking developing ball-handling skills. Van Gundy pointed out to the players that the best scorers in the NBA are the ones who can maneuver through the defense and get anywhere they want on the floor.

``It’s fun being in camps with kids. It’s amazing how things are so similar,’’ Van Gundy said. ``You have to teach a little bit more at a lower level, but the fundamentals never change.

``The fundamentals don’t get overlooked by the better (NBA) players,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``The ones able to execute the fundamentals are the one who can play in our league. Sometimes because of the other things that NBA players can do they lose sight that guys can really take care of the fundamentals.’’

Jacques Patrick, a 6-foot-2 14-year-old who will be attending East River High School, said it was an honor to be coached by the likes of Van Gundy, who is universally considered one of the best teachers in the NBA. Patrick said the value of Wednesday’s session was immeasurable to him.

``He was such a good coach and a speaker and he really inspired me,’’ Patrick said. ``He taught me things about using my left hand and saying that you can’t do something yet that got my attention. It was really good.’’

Van Gundy said it was just good to be back around basketball players again. Because of the NBA’s lockout and subsequent work stoppage, the Magic’s management and coaching staff can’t have any contact with the players and vice versa. Usually players would be in and out of the Magic headquarters playing pickup games, conditioning or strength training, but none of that is allowed in the team facility now.

``It won’t really set in until (September). It sets in a little now when I go to the office and there’s nothing going on,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We’re used to having someone in and having some activity. Now, it’s like a ghost town in there. When we get to October that’s when it will really be different. We’ll get together (as a coaching staff) after Labor Day and normally we’re working with guys, talking about what we want to do differently and putting together playbooks. We’ll still do all of that, but once we’re ready and camp doesn’t start, it will be sitting around and waiting.’’

Van Gundy talked to the young players about continuing to work on their games and the importance of getting an education because of the daunting odds of players actually making it to the NBA. Then, when asked by one of the players during a question-and-answer session about his planes after coaching, Van Gundy shed some light on his obsession with politics. An avid reader of politics and procedures, Van Gundy admitted that a political run (likely on the state or local levels) could be in his future after basketball.

``I’ve thought about it. Will I? I don’t know. A lot of it would depend on when and where my family is and what level of politics. But, yeah, I’ve thought about it a lot,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I don’t like what’s going on and sometimes you can sit around and complain or you can do something about it. But I want to coach as long as I can. But when that’s done, I’d think about it.

Asked if winning a championship with the Magic might aid his bid to someday get elected, Van Gundy said not even that might help him because of the extreme measures he’d take if he ever made it into office.

``Some of my political views would make it tough for me to get elected at least from where I see them,’’ he said with a chuckle. ``I see the views that people use to get elected and I’m not sure that I’m on that side of it. I might be just setting myself up for disappointment with a run, but I’ll at least get my say.’’