AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
The relationship between New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy and the rest of the team reportedly isn’t ideal after a disappointing 31-41 season.
Sam Amick of The Athletic reported on KHTK radio (via Scott Kushner of NOLA.com) there was tension between Gundy and his players during the season.
“In New Orleans, the players are not vibing with the coach,” Amick said. “There’s issues there.”
Van Gundy was hired last offseason to replace Alvin Gentry after the Pelicans fell short of the playoffs last year. There were high expectations with an experienced coach who has brought three different teams to the postseason, leading the Orlando Magic to the NBA finals in 2009.
The roster also features some of the best young talent in the NBA between Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, while the additions of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams would provide veteran leadership and defensive ability. It was enough to at least make the playoffs and potentially do damage in the Western Conference.
Unfortunately, New Orleans struggled on both ends and displayed inconsistent effort on the way to finishing 23rd in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
Van Gundy’s hard-nosed attitude wasn’t enough to get the most out of the talent on the roster and it creates questions about his future with the team despite three more years on his contract.
There is still a lot to work with, especially after Williamson moved to point guard. With averages of 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in his second season, the 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick can clearly be a key player for a playoff contender.
The challenge will be for the coach to get on the same page with the players in 2021-22 and beyond.