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The Van Gundy Redundancies

I ain’t mad at him, but the color commentary of this exciting NBA Finals has suffered because of ESPN/ABC’s decision to allow Jeff Van Gundy, the brother of Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, to announce the games.  We, the fans have been robbed of quality unbiased commentary.  It’s almost as bad as listening to Tommy Heinsohn announce a Celtics game. UGGGGGGGGGH.

You can’t blame Jeff.  He suggested that he be removed from the announcers team before the series to avoid an appearance of bias.  He knew that he was not going to criticize his brother.  He knew that he was rooting for his brother and the Magic although he said that he believed the Lakers would dispatch Van Gundy’s team in 5-6 games.

I can relate to Jeff’s position. In fact, I wish Jeff was now the coach of the New York Knicks.  At least I know my team would work hard on defense, though they might struggle on offense just a tad bit.  I know my team would be loyal to a coach who would be willing to tackle an opposing player if a fight broke out.  I know my team would respect the public loyalty that one brother shows another brother on internation televistion.

I can  relate because I have three brothers myself.  We are ultra-competitve, but I would not dare criticize them on an international forum, even though one of them, at the age of 40+, still insists, in small crowds, on bringing up the time he hit me with a lucky Bruce Lee kick in the chest when we were teenagers.    Even though he never mentions that he ran like Carmelo Anthony after the lucky strike.  I wouldn’t criticize him publicly despite the fact we slept in the same bed for years and he occasionally left little surprises because he was too afraid of the dark to go to the toilet.  No, I would not  dog out my younger  brother  in public.  Blood is thicker than poopy.

This is why I can understand that Jeff Van Gundy will not criticize the coaching of his brother Stan Van Gundy regardless of the mistakes he makes.

I understand it, but let’s be real.  Jeff’s policy not to criticize any coaches, especially his brother, denies the fans of high quality analysis from both him and Mark Jackson, his partner in analysis crime, who announces like a wanna-be coach instead of a former star basketball player.   We are denied the benefit of Jeff’s knowledge and analysis.  No second guessing coaches because it’s a hard job, like being a player isn’t.   Jeff’s policy  was never more true than when he decided to rant on about Rafer “Skip To My Lou” Alston’s reasons for poor quality of play in the first game of the finals.  “Skip To” opined that his rhythm was thrown off when he found himself relegated to the bench after starting for and leading the Magic through three contentious series (Philly, Boston, Cleveland) to reach the finals.  After all that effort, because star guard Jameer Nelson didn’t really want to miss the playoffs, Stan Van Gundy gave Nelson significant minutes and disrupted the rhythm of the entire team.  Instead of criticizing his brother’s decision, he went on about how Rafer should just shut up and play and not make excuses for his performance.

Of course, Jackson, who desperately wants to be a part of the coaching fraternity (and should get a chance, quite frankly) follows the same philosophy and instead of giving us the player’s perspective, he also skips Stan Van and criticize’s Skip To.   As throughout the series, Van Gundy’s unwillingness to criticize his brother impacts the announcing of  Jackson.

When Mark finally and rightfully criticized Stan Van for keeping Jameer Nelson on the floor too long in game four, he quickly offered an apology when the Magic started playing better.  How often does an announcer apologize for being wrong, momentarily?

I say momentarily because perhaps Derrick Fisher’s regulation ending tre was the result of playing Nelson too much.  What happened to criticism of Stan Van by either commentator (plus Mike Breen) when Nelson allowed Derrick Fisher to hit that game tying tre with about 4 seconds left in regulation.  Who stood up to criticize the coach for not insuirng that either Fisher was crowded or fouled before the tre attempt to make sure that he could not tie the game.  Certainly, Jameer Nelson should have been criticized for defending behind the arc, but where was the coach in all of this?  Where were the coach’s critics for the second game he cost the Magic in the series?

It’s one thing not to criticize coaches but it is quite another to not see Magic fouls when Orlando players are draped all over shooters.  How many fouls called against the Magic have Mark and Jeff claimed were either wrong or questionable when they were painfully obvious at first blush.  Since when is it not a foul to hit a shooting hand or for a moving defender to initiate a body-bump while the shooter is in the air.  They’re more than Stan’s homies; they’re Orlando homers.

Let’s give Jeff some credit for criticizing at least one Van Gundy — his dad, when Pops tried to sell his boys to the viewing audience as formidable college basketball players.  Jeff at least told us his dad was wrong for trying to make them look like basketball studs.

What is equally as irritating is how the press ignores this obvious deficiency in the ESPN/ABC broadcast.  Sportswriters and announcers have always been so quick to point out how lackluster the games appear to be when the Williams sisters play each other in grand slam finals.  They even go so far as accusing the sisters of planning which one will win a trophy and when.  The press makes such a big deal about how hard they believe it is for the sisters to show a killer instinct against one another.  Yet, no one talks about Jeff’s blatant disregard for doing his job when it might hurt his brother’s public image.

As I said, I don’t fault Jeff Van Gundy.  I think he is doing what he should do.  If he were playing his brother, he should beat his azz or at least make it hard for him to win.  To say bad things (without a lot of self-deprecating humor) about your sibling, just to please others, is really not good for family harmony.  But, I blame ESPN-ABC for putting Jeff in this position — their decision was a disservice to the viewers.


You may also like: Jeff Van Gundy’s Face, a video at College Humor


June 14, 2009 Posted by | 2009 Finals, Jeff Van Gundy, Stan Van Gundy | , , , , | 17 Comments

Lakers v. Magic: 2009 NBA Finals

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June 4, 2009 Posted by | 2009 Finals, Live Blogging Event | , , , | 4 Comments