Could ESPN’s on-screen talent purge lead a famed head coach back to Texas? That could be the case after the network let go of Jeff Van Gundy, who just finished calling the NBA Finals alongside Mike Breen and Mark Jackson.
In its latest round of layoffs, ESPN parted ways with Van Gundy, who began working at the television empire after being fired as coach of the Houston Rockets in 2007. While it’s a massive shock to NBA fans everywhere, it seems as if the Dallas Mavericks inquired about Van Gundy’s services, according to insider Marc Stein.
In the June 5 edition of Stein’s Substack newsletter (per Sports Illustrated), the veteran NBA reporter said that the Mavs were considering talking to Van Gundy about an assistant role under head coach Jason Kidd. Van Gundy interviewed about the Rockets head-coaching vacancy in 2020 before the franchise hired Stephen Silas. (Silas was fired after three seasons in favor of former Boston Celtics bench boss Ime Udoka.)
Dallas has had a tumultuous 12 months, starting with the free-agent departure of Jalen Brunson last offseason, which had team owner/governor Mark Cuban pushing for tampering charges against the New York Knicks. (New York lost its second-round pick in last Thursday’s NBA Draft.)
The regular season started off uneven before the Mavs reeled off a seven-game win streak through the winter holidays. Luka Doncic continued his all-world play but was more often than not a one-man show for an offense that sputtered too often when he was off the floor. A midseason trade for Kyrie Irving only complicated matters, and the Mavs fell off a cliff in the final weeks of the season, missing the playoffs with a 38-44 record.
Van Gundy isn’t exactly the roster addition the team may need, but his experience on the bench can be vital for a team seeking consistency.
Van Gundy’s teams have only missed the playoffs once between his six-plus years as an assistant coach and parts of 11 seasons as a head coach in New York and Houston. While the style of play in the NBA has changed dramatically since he led the Knicks to the 1999 NBA Finals, his insights as a broadcaster have kept him extremely close to the game through its evolution.