Another day, another NBA coaching job filled.
The New Orleans Pelicans have appointed Stan Van Ghani as their next head coach, According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojrowski and Andrew Lopez. The news came a day after Indiana Pacers held a conversation with former Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren. Seven of the nine head coaching jobs available this offseason are now filled. Only the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets remain open.
Van Gundy will enter into a four-year deal with the Pelicans, Shams of Per Athletic Table. Van Ghani previously compiled a 523-384 record in 11-plus seasons as head coach of the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons. Only four active coaches have more wins. He has served as a TNT analyst since relieving his duties as coach and president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons in 2018.
Van Ghani coached the Magic to the 2009 finals with a three-point heavy offense ahead of his time. He surrounded Dwight Howard with shooters, including 2009 All-Stars Rashard Lewis and Jamir Nelson. Van Gundy will be tasked with doing the same in New Orleans with rising stars Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Junior Holiday, with JJ Redick as a straight bridge from the 2009 Magic to the 2020 Pelicans.
Williamson is a potential generation superstar if he can stay healthy. Knee injuries prevented the No. 1 from making his debut until January 22, and severely limited his availability at the seeding games during the season restart at Orlando. In their 19 appearances before the Hightas, the Pelicans served as a playoff team, giving opponents 10.4 points per 100 possessions with Williamson on the floor.
Similarly, Ingram captured the Most Improved Player honors, emerging as an All-Star after arriving in New Orleans, which sent Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. A offseed free agent this offseason, the 23-year-old Lankee is expected to be at or near maximum contract extension.
At the age of 30, Holiday is the veteran leader of the Pelicans. Since arriving in 2013, he has incorporated himself into the New Orleans community, ranking as one of the NBA’s lowest watchers during that term. With one year left on his contract to a player option, he is an asset as a potential playoff contributor or potential trade chip. The Pelicans general manager David Griffin also has a cache of draft assets to deal with.
Williamson and Ingram also have some young talents in New Orleans. Chief among them is Lonzo Ball, who came to the Davis trade with Ingram. The former No. 2 pick appeared in his third season as a shooter. He is a tremendous upside with a high-end facility if Van Gani can help him unload stuff that then comes from L.A. The Pelicans job is a perfect fit for a coach with a history of player development.
The question is whether Forest Gandy’s history of defensive success will turn into a talent group that imposes an aggressive mind as a small-ball organization. They circled top-10 strongholds in Miami, Orlando and Detroit, largely with traditional centers Shaquille O’Neill, Howard and Andre Drummond as their defensive anchors.
Van Gundy will take over for outgoing Alvin Gentry, who won only half of his better games with the Pelicans just once in his five-year term, when Davis led him to the Western Conference semifinals in 2018. New Orleans never advanced beyond this. The second round in the franchise’s 18-year history.
Gentry was one of four black head coaches to lose their jobs at the end of the season. Gentry joined Luke Walton’s Sacramento Kings staff as chief assistant earlier this month. After the hiring of Bjorkgren and Van Gundy, only two head coaches have been filled by Black coaches. Doc Rivers left the Los Angeles Clippers for the Philadelphia 76ers, and was replaced by former former champion Tyren Lu at La Liu, a finalist for the Pelicans position before taking the job as Clemmer, as did Jamaah Moseley and Will Weaver was.
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