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Monday, June 15, 2009

Worst coached NBA Finals? 

A third Van Gundy brother?

The Clarion Content's sports editor didn't watch last night's Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the last game of this NBA season. He had already spent enough time hollering at the television and Stan Van Gundy. As a long time Knicks fan, this was not the first time he has watched a hopelessly overmatched Van Gundy get out coached in the playoffs.

Was this the worst coaching job in the NBA finals ever?

It was embarrassingly bad, to the point where Stan Van Gundy's players were criticizing him with anonymous comments to the press between Games 4 and 5. It was pathetic to the point where a clueless Van Gundy was quoting Spurs Coach Greg Popovich in his pre-game speeches, "Pop tells his guys...." The root of the problem began when Van Gundy inexplicably played point guard Jameer Nelson huge minutes in Game 1. Nelson who hadn't played in 4 and 1/2 months was out of sync and out of shape. After the game Van Gundy vowed not to make the same mistake again. Ha! If only, he should have simply promised to make a litany of new ones.

He took a team that was playing well enough to stop the prohibitive favorite LeBron James and the Cavs and screwed with the rotation like it was baseball Spring Training! He had no point guard in the game down the stretch at all as the Magic came up short in Game 2. Then in Game 4, he went back to his over play Nelson strategy, post-game promises forgotten, all the while screwing with the confidence of his mercurial and talented starting point guard, Rafer Alston, who had helped lead the team to three huge series wins.

Van Gundy did the same with his shooting guards. In one game J.J. Reddick would play huge fourth quarter minutes, in another, he wouldn't see the floor in the second half. In one game Courtney Lee would be asked to take perhaps the biggest shot of the series, then in another he wouldn't play at all in the fourth quarter. A fan could have been pulled out of the stands and done a better coaching job. As the Magic folded and gagged down the stretch of Game 4, Van Gundy set-up Nelson's final coup de grĂ¢ce backing off Derek Fisher to stop a 2 point drive, and leave an open 3, with the Lakers trailing by 3 and seconds left in the game. It was the final head shaker. What on Earth was the diminutive Nelson doing in the game? Why didn't the Magic use their foul to give?

Our basketball posse discussed; had we ever seen any coach close out the first four games of a NBA series with four different line-ups (not due to foul trouble or injury) but just plain experimenting? Conclusion, never. Coach Van Gundy, it was Mike Dunleavy-esque. And to have to listen to his brother announce it, and pretend like all was well, vile, gut churning nonsense. Then after each game, Stan took time out to explain why the players were at fault, throwing them under the proverbial bus in a lame effort to deflect blame.

No Van Gundy should be coaching anything bigger than Cortland State's D-III program. Unfortunately, there was no Pat Riley to provide the hook this time before Stan screwed the pooch over and over on national television.

[edit. note: The author (our sports editor) is a huge Knicks fan and Lakers hater, this bias may shade his opinions on occasion.]

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