The New Orleans Pelicans opted to fire head coach Stan Van Gundy this week after just one season.
Although the move was abrupt, it didn’t come as much of a shock to those following the franchise.
Van Gundy had lost favor with several key stars on the team, making his termination something of an inevitability.
If he didn’t get the boot this season, it would’ve come next.
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, one mistake in particular played a huge role in costing Van Gundy his job. That mistake? How he wanted to play second-year star Zion Williamson.
“[Executive VP David] Griffin, sources said, is a front-office mind who wants input in his coach’s rotations and lineup configurations, such as Zion Williamson’s optimal position,” he wrote.
“Griffin’s front office emphasized moving Williamson from the frontcourt into more of a lead ball-handler. Multiple Pelicans staffers believe that adjustment, as well as letting Van Gundy go, was in part due to continuing efforts by Griffin to win favor with Williamson, such as his public statement about adverse officiating toward his team’s star that drew a $50,000 fine.”
Part of the Pelicans’ urgency in dumping Van Gundy and trying to win favor with Williamson stems from the low-key dissatisfaction emanating from his family.
According to Shams Charania, Joe Vardon and William Guillory of The Athletic, a lot of the front office’s recent focus “has centered on Williamson’s family members’ thinly veiled unhappiness with the Pelicans, and whether those feelings seeped into the player’s own views.”
How much of this unhappiness stemmed from Van Gundy’s coaching? That’s the million dollar question.
“For most of this season, certain Williamson family members voiced displeasure with the organization,” the report continued.
“Among the targets of their criticism was Van Gundy, who they felt was too rigid and demanding as head coach, but also with the Pelicans, which they claim did not live up to what they felt should be the standard for a star like Williamson. Numerous opposing league executives had heard the complaints, and they were confirmed by Pelicans officials.”
Yikes Adrien Broner https://t.co/6PvzjfA3yH
— Game 7 (@game7__) June 14, 2021
Williamson’s open flirtation with the New York Knicks has obviously sent up red flags within the Pelicans’ front office, but it is unclear how much of that played a role in what happened to Van Gundy.
Next season will ultimately be a big one. If the former Duke standout can lead New Orleans into the playoffs, both sides will likely walk away very happy with one another. If not – expect the talk of Williamson heading elsewhere to pick up steam.