Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 at 2:00 pm  |  49 responses

Jeff Van Gundy’s Awful Finals Experience

by Marcel Mutoni

Even the most ardent Orlando Magic fan can admit this much: Stan Van Gundy failed miserably in the NBA Finals. Not to say that had he done a better job, his team would’ve won the title, but they might have been given a better chance.

His panicky and sometimes completely nonsensical decisions throughout the championship round were ripe for criticism — and were ripped in just about every medium — but hardly a peep was uttered about the embattled coach by the crew in charge of bringing the action to millions of television viewers.

Hmm, I wonder why….the New York Times gets to the bottom of the issue:

“I think this was harder for him than he thought it would be,” said Mike Breen, whose command as the play-by-play voice of the finals continues to grow. “This was uncharted waters. I didn’t know how he would do it.”

“At one point, during an incredible Lakers roll, maybe in Game 1,” Breen said during a telephone interview Monday, “I was making some loud, juiced-up calls about some Lakers baskets. I saw him sitting next to me, and he’s down. His brother’s team is getting shellacked. I hated to sound so enthused, and I told him I was sorry. He’s a longtime friend, he’s my partner, and you feel for what he’s going through.”

My favorite part of JVG’s announcing fail was when he kept killing Jameer Nelson for poorly guarding Derek Fisher’s overtime-forcing three in Game 4, and not a single mention of Stan’s role in the fiasco.

The lesson here, as always: Don’t announce games in which family members are desperately trying to win a championship.

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  • http://www.facebook.com mat smith

    Ill bet he was pulling his (single) hair out….

  • KB24MVP

    Yet another little game the media uses to get attention… shouldn’t the real focus be on the game? Not the announcer?

  • http://www.unitedplayersofamerica.com John Delaware

    Official: Stan Van Goofy

    I heard not a word from JVG about Stan’s lack of calm and stoicism. Lesson, never broadcast a relative’s game, dummie.

  • http://nba.com Reflex

    ‘The lesson here, as always: Don’t announce games in which family members are desperately trying to win a championship.’…………………..This made me laugh a lot more than it should have

  • http://sandoonamoon.blogspot.com/ Superman_Osman

    So awfully true. I’m starting to back Zo’s thoughts on SVG.

  • Statik

    Soooo…Shaq wasn’t blowing steam like people were saying he was, SVG doesn go into panic mode and his decision screwed his team. Maybe Riley should’ve “saved” him from his misery this time too

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Should Jeff have called the Finals this year?
    Did Stan make some flawed coaching decisions?
    But I enjoyed Jeff and Mark and their banter throughout the series and was not disappointed in the performance. And Stan’s so-called failure as a coach is overstated, c’mon now. You may not like his screeching and “bad beer” faces, but dude got that team to play above their heads most nights, including these playoffs. That’s a team with a not-very-high basketball I.Q.; Howard has no go-to move; shooters are statistically <50% most nights (and on a team highly dependent on shooters–you do the math); and a team that had not yet had the heartbreaks that build team mental toughness. Don’t put that on Stan.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Cheryl

    The above was me, not Eboy. SKO’s been hijacked again. Is that you, Jukai??

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    Um, wow. I agree?

  • http://dsjklff.com Jukai

    Cheryl: No, but don’t fret, from reading the comment, we all knew it couldn’t have been Eboy. Too intelligent.

  • http://www.hoopsvibe.com/christopher_sells-authorHV106.html chiqo

    if jvg weren’t a hypercritical commentator– which is what makes him good, by the way– i think he’d have had an easier time. as it is, he did do a bad job, he just didn’t do the job we’re used to him doing.

  • http://slam Allenp

    I think Cheryl and Mutoni make good points and the truth is somewhere in between.
    Van Gundy never, EVER criticized a coaching decision is brother made, which was shady. But, he wasn’t a horrible announcer.

  • Brian

    Playing Nelson at times was SVG’s fault, but I don’t see much else after that. Nelson backing off of Fisher was not the fault of the coach.

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    The fault of the coach was Nelson being in the game. How the eff is he gonna bother a 3-point shot? Lee and Pietrus should have been on the court to defend the guard spots. Stan is a great X and O guy but is terrible, TERRIBLE at subbing. Nobody had consistent minutes besides Hedo, Shard and Dwight. Everyone else on the roster played as much as 30 and as less as 5-10 in the playoffs. Players need consistency with their minutes. JJ was yanked all over the place. Pick a rotation and STICK WITH IT. He deserves praises for Orlando’s journey and A LOT of blame for his job in the Finals.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    JVG offered to not call the Finals, but ESPN wanted him.

  • wilz

    he was fine..

  • http://www.slamonline.com Blinguo

    Eboy’s Finals preview over @ SKO was more than adequate in intelligence. Formatting like that above, Eboy never does here though. But isn’t it like ESPN doesn’t ever have objective commentators. From Walton (before) to Magic in the booth all the time and fully throughout the Finals. And is that the only stock photo of Jeff SLAM has? Used it a couple times now. SLAM Van Gundy Magazine, where 70% of the articles are Mutoni putting him in his spot.

  • http://theghostofroyhobbs.blogspot.com Mo Charlo


  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Who cares? Jeff Van Gundy was FINE. OBVIOUSLY he’s not going to ridicule/criticize his own brother. And you can’t blame Stan for much of the Magic’s losses anyways, the only thing was the subbing. The late game collapses were solely on the players. The Lakers came out on top, leave it at that and shush, Marcel. We appreciate the unbiased reporting there, Mutoni, you totally aren’t a Lakers fan.

  • Jacob

    oh well, hopefully the finals will be on TNT one day, i’d rather listen to Marv Albert/Doug Collins than Mike Breen/JVG/Mark Jackson

  • Sarah

    im sarah? wtf?

  • ericmontross

    It was a bad move for Stan to tell his players to miss all those free throws in crucial situations. I don’t know what he was thinking.

  • http://sjsu.edu davidR

    jacob, i’d keep them on espn cause if tnt called the finals, you’re risking listening to reggie. i don’t anyone wants to mute the finals

  • Comeup

    I thought he did pretty good. Yes it was stupid for him not to tell his players to foul fisher, BUT remember: They would’ve won if Dwight made the free throws. He put them in a position to win,at the end of the day hes gonna be blamed but had Dwight made 1 FT (Best Center in NBA still???) it would’ve been 2 – 2

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Reggie is awesome!

  • that dude

    I would actually put a lot of blame on SVG. True, he doesn’t control the actions of the players on the court, but he’s the one thats suppose to conduce GOOD PLAY from them. Him making those illogical substitution patterns screws around with players’ heads. It’s hard to play well when players are constantly looking over their shoulder at the bench. You see Skip mouth “fu*k” when he was getting pulled for jameer? That ish shouldn’t be happening in the goddamn finals.

  • http://nba.com tealish

    JVG’s fault how? He offered to not do it.
    SVG told Nelson to sag off Fisher, to prevent the layup, giving the 3-ball while up 3? I highly doubt that. So no, the most ardent of Magic fans would not consider SVG to have “failed miserably”. Mistakes made, sure. Failed miserably? For real? You sure Shaq isn’t paying you to write that? C’mon now.

  • Max

    So I thought this was one of the silliest things written right from the get go (“even the most ardent Orlando Magic fan can admit this much” — talk about a whopper of a false premise, and as the lead). SVG’s decisions were open to question, but were in no way the miserable failure posited by the credentialed writer in question. Now some of the faulty tone of this piece can be credited to the NYT opinion piece linked to — Sandomir makes too much hay of JVG’s conflicted loyalties, but even he points out that JVG’s primary tendency is to criticize players anyway, not coaches. Jeff Van Gundy was fine — I’ve always felt he should hold coaches a little more responsible in his broadcasts, but his feeling is that coaches take too much blame as a default position. So taking that into account, JVG did a good job, with his usual lacerating humor — Sandomir and Mutoni need to re-examine their assumptions about what makes for a good broadcast before doling out reckless accusations.

  • jay

    Jeff rarely criticizes coaches in general, not just his brother. I think it has to do with the coaching fraternity thing, understanding that coaching is a lot harder than it looks, yada yada yada. He gets on refs all the time, which I love, instead of propagandizing that they’re the best in the world like so many spouted for so long. I can understand if he doesn’t criticize his brother but some criticism would have been warranted. Like, what about playing Reddick for 27 minutes in game two, including during crunch time in the fourth and all of overtime. Reddick wasn’t hitting shots so all he did was contribute turnovers and bad defense.

  • Ronald

    @comeup: injuries aside, i thought yao was always the best center in the L over D12?

  • http://crashwallace.org nate the great

    i think JVG did a good job, Stan did a decent job coaching, i think nelson coming into the finals was a bad mistake, he shoulda left his team the way it was when they beat the cavs. i mean the cavs are a better team (maybe) than the lake show.

  • http://nbainchina.com NBA China

    Me and my friends call these three announcers ‘the dream team’. They the best in the business bar none, and did fine considering the circumstances. Of course depends what you’re looking for in a commentator. Those who want to be taught about the game while watching might prefer Doug Collins/Hubbie Brown..but for veteran fans, you can’t really do better than the MJ/JVG tandem.

  • http://slamonline blaze

    I was in ninth grade when slam #1 came out,and have bought every issue since. there top 50 was cool, but i wish they would do like a top 50 from 1990+. I think the nba was at its best in the mid 90s, mostly every team was evenly matched. we didnt have teams that were always bad and never improved like the modern bucks, warriors,grizz,bobcats,thunder/sonics, etc. every team goes through rebuilding periods but back then it didnt seem to take as long. also i wish slam would cut back on the shoes and save it for the kicks mag.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/fear/ Freedom Fries

    “he’s my partner” huh huh huh huh

  • Erik

    This article was stupid, im glad many above agree

  • Bruno, RJ

    funny how ppl approach this…
    i’m not a stan’s fan but guy took Orlando to the finals against everybody and his team missed so CLUTCH plays that could have turned this series around.
    and well, on top of that, orlando WAS SUPPOSED to lose to L.A….
    he is not the better coach in the league, but the criticism is stupid. he did a pretty decend job through the year.
    if you want to call poor coach decisions, how about Phil, best all time, calling a timeout with 30 seconds left and calling a desperate 3 as his play?!!?!?
    remember that the lakers shot 5 desperate treys in a row on game 3????
    Stan was OK, actually, he had a very good year and despite looking ridiculous… he got himself a good start in term of morale.

  • Reverend Slappy

    Bill Simmons:

    (FYI: On the Awkward Scale right now, Jeff Van Gundy announcing as his brother submits one of the worst-coached fourth quarters in Finals history ranks at least a 9.8. This is like having Jeb Bush providing live play-by-play for George W. Bush’s reading of “My Pet Goat.”)

  • Harry

    SVG is an emotional screamer. Watch Larry Brown,Greg Popovich or Phil J. They pick and choose their screaming sessions,because they know that like screaming at your kids, if you do it often , it loses it’s effect. SVG is a very average coach,who will probably not make it back to the finals. His decisions during game 4 were wrongheaded, especially the defensive setup during the last 11 seconds. He says that “experience” doesn’t matter in the playoffs,because it’s JUST a basketball game. This philosophy is why SVG will not last as a coach. He has no understanding about players like JJ Redick,who as a rookie to the finals, has nervous problems. SVG is just a very poor strategist for the overall game. He can design one play to score,but when it comes to game strategy on Kobe for instance, he has no clue.

  • Harry

    ABC’s coverage of the Finals was very pedestrian. Mike Breen’s obsversation,more often than not basically mimicked JVG. Breen tried not to be too enthusiastic about the Lakers in defference to JVG. JVG had a few good moments when analyzing the game,but constantly chatted about outside events, like celebrity attendance or extraneous comments that interfered with the actual on court action. Mark Jackson was a “non-entity” who made comments on what he saw,but the comments had no added value to the broadcast were simply a narrative of the action. Give me Reggie Miller or Hubie Brown. Marv Albert is much better than Breen. There were times when I simply turned down the sound, and watched the game.

  • whooo!

    ok, so stan van gundy made some very questionable decisions, though the biggest issue for me was favoring nelson over skip waaay too much, when it was unwarranted. but check this… he drew an amazing out of bounds play for courtney lee, that COULD have gone in, but they missed. and then let’s say dwight howard makes ONE freakin free throw, that would’ve wrapped up that game too – 2 ft’s and it woulda been no question an orlando win. what i’m saying is, if the players make 2 buckets, that would’ve been a 3-1 MAGIC lead.

  • whooo!

    and as for JVG, like others said, he offered not to work. but bill walton always worked when his son was playing. magic johnson freakin owns the lakers and he still does analysis for them. JVG is stil the best guy calling the games right now, even when he’s not at the top of his game.

  • http://double-technical.blogspot.com Zee!

    Ha ha ha, groupie.

  • Tommy Patron

    Breen is lousy, period. I particularly hate his feigning a lack of knowledge and asking what are basically rhetorical questions of JVG and Mark Jackson about basketball basics. Lousy.

  • Matul9

    Personally i really liked JVG’s play-calling in the finals, he’s hilarious but not Bill Walton-crazy.
    During one of the games he made a statement and then added (to his partners), “did you see me snap my finger there for emphasis?” then MJax/Breen said, “too bad i was the only person seeing it”, to which he replied, “you know, we should have our own personal camera shooting us at all times. We’re eye candy too!” and then they had an iguana reference.

  • VK33

    JVG is good at what he does him and Jackson are usually very funny and why shouldnt he be upset seeing his brother lose? its only natural for one to feel that way the criticism aimed at him here is out of line and uncalled for

  • HoopsFanMike

    I thought Jeff was actually a little lighter in the fifth game, it’s like he already knew his bro & Orlando were not going to win so he relaxed a bit. Laker fans are used to this though with years of listening to Tom Heinsohn and his biased finals color commentating on CBS during the ’80s…

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    I thought Jeff was Stan’s father….

  • CuriousPlumber

    How can you say Stan failed miserably when he made an unbelievable coaching move to have Courtney Lee go in for an unexpected alley-oop. It was a brilliant play the was simply missed by Lee, and by the way they could have called goal tending on Gasol, because his hand hit the rim just slightly. Also, if Howard or Turkoglu hit just one more free throw in game 4, the Magic would have won that game. Blaming Stan Van Gundy for this finals loss is ridiculous.

  • bashmo

    SVG is a pretty outstanding coach. He took this team far, farther than everyone anticipated. And next season, with Turkoglu resigned, and a healthy jameer, we can take it all!!!