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Stan Van Gundy agrees to become coach of Pelicans

The veteran coach will join Zion Williamson and the promising team in New Orleans.

The New Orleans Pelicans have agreed to terms with veteran NBA coach Stan Van Gundy to become their next coach, per multiple reports, which Van Gundy later confirmed via Twitter.

Van Gundy had been serving as an NBA analyst for Turner Sports before agreeing to this deal. Prior to that, Van Gundy spent 12 seasons as an NBA coach from 2003-18, serving in that role with the Miami Heat (2003-06), Orlando Magic (2007-12) and Detroit Pistons (2014-18).

The Pelicans fired coach Alvin Gentry in early August after he served as New Orleans’ coach for the previous five seasons. New Orleans went 30-42 last season, finishing with just two victories in its final eight games despite the presence of top overall draft choice Zion Williamson and first-time All-Star Brandon Ingram in the lineup until the club was eliminated from playoff contention with two games to play.

New Orleans started 2019-20 at 6-22 and labored through a franchise record 13-game losing streak as Williamson missed the first 44 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery. The Pelicans rallied back into contention for a playoff berth and were virtually at full health when the season resumed in central Florida in July after a hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pelicans had three starters this season — Williamson, Ingram and Lonzo Ball — who were younger than 24 and had no playoff experience. Two other regulars — Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander Walker — were also 2019 first-round Draft picks. And the Pelicans have a slew of Draft picks still to come from last year’s trade of Anthony Davis to the Lakers.

Per multiple reports, what separated Van Gundy from the pack of other potential names for New Orleans’ vacancy was his ability to craft young talent as well as his history of building top defensive teams in the NBA. In Miami, Van Gundy’s teams never ranked lower than 10th in Defensive Rating (103.4 in 2005-06), his Orlando team ranked in the top 5 in Defensive Rating for three straight seasons (2008-11) and the Pistons improved from 25th in Defensive Rating before his arrival (2013-14) to a top-10 defensive team in his last two seasons.


Van Gundy has coached 907 games in his career, amassing a 523-384 record and led the Magic to The Finals in 2009. His offensive game plan around center Dwight Howard was instrumental in Orlando reaching The Finals. Howard became a Kia MVP candidate under Van Gundy’s tutelage and won his three consecutive Kia Defensive Player of the Year awards (2008-11) while playing for Van Gundy. Additionally, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis enjoyed their lone All-Star seasons under Van Gundy (2008-09) while reserve Ryan Anderson was named Kia Most Improved Player as a player under Van Gundy (2011-12).

As coach of the Heat, Van Gundy went 112-73 as Miami transitioned into a new era with young phenom Dwyane Wade. Before the 2004-05 season, the Heat traded for former Kia MVP winner Shaquille O’Neal in a blockbuster swap with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Heat reached the Eastern Conference finals where they lost to the Pistons and, after an 11-10 start in 2005-06, Van Gundy was fired and his boss, current Heat president Pat Riley, replaced him as coach.

In Detroit, Van Gundy went 152-176 over four years as Detroit’s head coach and president of basketball operations with only one playoff appearance — a 4-0 first-round loss to Cleveland in 2016 — to show for it. He engineered the trade in 2017-18 with the LA Clippers for former All-Star forward Blake Griffin. Although Detroit got off to a hot start with Griffin, the Pistons stumbled down the stretch and missed the playoffs for the second straight season and third time in four seasons.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.