Should the T’Wolves go after Stan Van Gundy?

About a month ago I wrote a piece on why Fred Hoiberg would be a per­fect fit to be the next head coach of the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves. Since then, Hoiberg received a huge exten­sion from Iowa State Uni­ver­sity, so it doesn’t look like my choice will come to fruition. How­ever, there is one coach I think who could do a good job with the Tim­ber­wolves: Stan Van Gundy.

Van Gundy has got­ten the short end of the stick more (no pun intended) than once in his coach­ing career. A lot of peo­ple feel Van Gundy got a raw deal when he was run out-of-town by the Orlando Magic after the huge “Dwight Howard deba­cle”. It’s a lot eas­ier to fire a coach than it is to trade away a super­star. How­ever, the Magic ended up doing both because they traded Howard to the Los Ange­les Lak­ers. A lot of peo­ple also feel that he still should have coached Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat dur­ing the 2005–2006 (their first cham­pi­onship). But when the Heat started out 11–10, Pat Riley felt that he needed to fix a wrong. So he fired Van Gundy and coached the team to the 2006 NBA championship.

Since being fired from Orlando in 2012, Van Gundy recently landed a new tele­vi­sion gig with the NBC Sports Network.

But that could change pretty soon.

If Van Gundy isn’t already  on the list of poten­tial coaches for the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves, he should. And, quite frankly, I think it would be a great fit.

Van Gundy has had a lot of suc­cess as a head coach. In eight sea­sons as a head coach, he has accu­mu­lated a record of 371–208. His teams have been some of the best defen­sive teams in the league year in and year out. It helps when you have Dwight Howard as the anchor of your defense, but his teams never relied on just one player. His teams played “team” defense, some­thing the Tim­ber­wolves know very lit­tle about. Whether he was coach­ing Miami or Orlando, Van Gundy’s teams never fin­ished lower than 11th in oppo­nents points per game allowed. The year they fin­ished 11th, Van Gundy’s Magic gave up 99 points per game. The Tim­ber­wolves fin­ished this sea­son 26th out of 30 teams in oppo­nents points per game (104.3). Van Gundy’s teams never gave up 100 points per game in his eight sea­sons as a head coach.

The Tim­ber­wolves defen­sive rat­ing (points allowed per 100 pos­ses­sions) was good enough for 12th at 106.2. Van Gundy’s teams never fin­ished with a defen­sive rat­ing higher than 104.1 or lower than 12th in the league. How­ever, he has had six sea­sons in which his team ranked in the top ten in the league in defen­sive rat­ing and three times in the top five.

On top of that, he has made it the NBA Finals one time and holds a record of 48–39 in the play­offs and has advanced past the first round five times.

But the strug­gle for the Tim­ber­wolves is mak­ing the play­offs in the West­ern Con­fer­ence and defen­sive and offen­sive effi­ciency is the main cause of that strug­gle. I don’t think hir­ing Van Gundy would hin­der the Tim­ber­wolves offense much, because they were able to score enough points before they were intro­duced to Rick Adelman’s “Cor­ner Offense”. Ever since Flip Saun­ders was wrongly fired by then GM Kevin McHale, the T’Wolves have been really bad defen­sively. Flip’s team were pretty aver­age defen­sively, but extremely effi­cient offensively.

In Van Gundy’s first sea­son as coach of the Magic, his team shot 47.4% from the field and 38.6% from 3. The league aver­age was 45.7% and 36.2%, respec­tively. Every year until he got fired, Van Gundy’s team were either at or above league aver­age in field goal per­cent­age, 3-point per­cent­age, or both.

This sea­son, the T’Wolves shot 44.4% while the league aver­age was 45.4%. The T’Wolves play at an extremely fast pace, mak­ing their already weak defense even more vul­ner­a­ble. And when the league aver­age for 3-point per­cent­age is at 36% and your team is shoot­ing 34.1%, it makes a huge dif­fer­ence, despite the fact that you made OVER 500 MORE free-throws than your oppo­nents. It can­cels out when your oppo­nents make 63 more 3-pointers and over 140 more two-point field goals than you.

Even though I went off on a tan­gent there, I think you can under­stand my point and why I think Van Gundy would be a great fit for the T’Wolves. Despite that he is extremely blunt about his play­ers’ effort at times, he says what he thinks and feels, and he has been extremely suc­cess­ful. I think the play­ers will buy into his schemes and tech­niques. He might even be able to take Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio to another level.

Who knows?


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