Former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy '85 now serves as the lead analyst for ESPN and ABC.
- Did You Know?
As a player at Nazareth for two seasons, Van Gundy ranks as the career record holder for free throw accuracy (86.8 percent). He was inducted into the Nazareth Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
Former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy '85 recently returned to Nazareth to host a Coaches Clinic, a half-day workshop for high school basketball coaches, on Saturday, September 26, 2009.
After 11 successful seasons as an NBA head coach—seven with the New York Knicks and four with the Houston Rockets—Van Gundy has spent the last two years as lead NBA analyst for ESPN and ABC. Van Gundy's teams made nine playoff appearances and he led the Knicks to the Eastern Conference championship in 1999.
Kerry Van Malderghem '08G, of the office of alumni relations, spoke with Van Gundy about Nazareth, coaching, and his new role as an NBA analyst.
Q&A with Jeff Van Gundy
How did your involvement with the Coaches Clinic at Nazareth College come about?
Kevin Broderick [Nazareth College men's basketball coach] texted me and asked if I'd be interested in doing the clinic. I have great respect for Kevin. I really enjoyed being part of Pete Bothner's [director of athletics at Nazareth College] committee to hire a men's basketball coach and I'm really excited about what Kevin can do for the program. So, when he asked me to do it, I was more than happy to.
You did a Coaches Clinic a couple of years ago. Are you looking to do something similar to what you did before?
Yeah, basketball really doesn't change too much...It's about four or five hours, so I'll be stretching my knowledge very thin.
When you do a clinic like this, does it ignite a desire to get back into coaching?
Well, the desire to coach has never really left me. I think certain family obligations (wanting to be around more; I have one girl going into high school now)...It was more of a family decision than not wanting to coach. So, I certainly miss coaching and whenever you get together with coaches and talk about basketball, you miss it more.
Does watching other coaches change your approach to coaching? Does that give you a different perspective?
I don't think it gives you a different perspective, but I do think that it gives you a chance to watch other guys work without having to worry about your own team. You have a chance to really study how coaches go about their business and certainly learn from them. I think that with my career in broadcasting I definitely have done that and I've picked up a lot of things as I broadcast the games and talk to the other coaches.
What was it like calling the NBA finals and having your brother (Stan Van Gundy, coach of the NBA's Orlando Magic) in the finals? How do you separate that brother relationship that you two have?
Well, I really didn't even try to; it was nerve racking. I wanted Stan's team to win, but unfortunately it didn't turn out that way. During the game you just talk about what you're seeing and not what you hope happens. You just talk about what plays are happening in the game. But, it was certainly nerve racking and I was filled with immense pride watching my brother work at the highest level.
Did you feel like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for you—calling it and him coaching it?
I sure hope not; I'm hoping for a second opportunity this year.
What's your favorite part about being an analyst?
I think two things: the schedule gives you a lot of flexibility so that you can really be involved with your kids' lives; and second, I like who I work with. Mike [Breen] was our announcer in New York and I coached Mark Jackson a couple of times. The producer and the director are great. When you're trying a second type of job, to be able to be with people you know and like makes it a lot more enjoyable.
You mentioned your daughter plays basketball. What does being away from coaching enable you to do now?
Well, you can basically be there for most events - whether it's back to school night, or any event. Also, I am one of the greatest carpool drivers of all time now. I think I rank up there with any carpooler in America. And, [I'm able to do] the simple stuff that probably moms take for granted because they're the ones usually doing the vast majority of it. Just to be able to help, and to be able to be involved in a more regular way everyday is really a good thing.
What's your favorite Nazareth memory?
I think it would be centered on basketball; winning the Lincoln First Place Championships both years and advancing to the Final Eight in the NCAA tournament. But, the greatest disappointment was losing to Clark at home to go to the Final Four. The coaches I played for there - Bill Nelson, Bob Ward, and Jim Emery - I learned so much from them and it was so long lasting; that was probably my favorite memory.
Also, I worked in work-study for Sister Annunciata (assistant to the vice president) and she was demanding and tough...but I loved being around her every day. She was so good to me. You never realize who you may be impacted by...She wasn't trying to be your friend, but it ended up that way. She reminds me of some of my best coaches: demanding, uncompromising, and determined.
Is it true that the Sisters of St. Joseph attended your basketball games?
Sure, they tried to hide their competitive nature, but whatever was considered to be a bad call, they would be on the refs too. If you're a referee and you're getting yelled at by lots of Sisters then you know you made a bad call. Nazareth was really a special place.