Stan Van Gundy, Zen Master


Stan Van Gundy had only a limited time to work with Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins. He liked what he saw as he and his coaching staff scrambled to teach the two rookies everything they could about what the Magic try to do. Van Gundy, like all other NBA team personnel, will not be able to have contact with his players during the upcoming lockout.

The need to get rookies up to speed could not have been more heightened. Especially when you consider the work second round picks typically need and the high expectations Van Gundy has for these guys to contribute quickly.

“These aren’t guys who are learning how to work,” Stan Van Gundy said. “Their work ethic is established. Their professionalism is … they’re here ready to work every day, they work without question. All those little things are gonna make their adjustment [to the NBA] a lot quicker [than other rookies’]. And for our team especially, that’s important. We’re not in a situation where we’re ready to wait five or six years for some 18-year-old guy to see what he can do. We’re trying to win now, and I think these guys are as ready as you can possibly be.”

Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post has a great recap of everything said at the introductory press conference Wednesday. The big takeaway is Van Gundy foresees (as things stand now) Liggins and Harper contributing to the team. Of course, there is looking like there will be a lot of time between Wednesday and the next time the team may contact its players.

That should give Van Gundy plenty of time to work on his latest project. And he has a lot of them.

Last year, Van Gundy’s project was to be more positive. That had mixed results this year.

His project this year? Look within and understand how to get the most of his players.

Yes, Van Gundy understands his communiction style is not exactly perfect. And that is something he is constantly working on. This prolonged offseason is giving him another opportunity to do so.

Van Gundy told Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel he has seen two psychologists to discuss what makes people successful and how best to reach them. As Schmitz joked, this came after only half a year coaching Gilbert Arenas. That was a joke, I think.

“I always try to gain more knowledge,” Van Gundy said. “I think we know our basketball stuff. The X’s and O’s, we’re solid. For me, this is another area to explore. It’s not always about innate ability. It shows you what’s attainable.”

You cannot blame Van Gundy for trying a different approach. Nobody doubts his X’s and O’s knowledge and his game preparation. Doubts about his interpersonal skills have always been a matter under question in his coaching tenure. It is a controversy that tends to divide Magic fans.

So Van Gundy is trying to improve himself as a coach. He is certainly trying to look the part sporting a new set of glasses at Wednesday’s press conference.

Van Gundy has even started turning over his new leaf. He had a heart-to-heart with Gilbert Arenas and agreed Arenas had a valid point in saying Van Gundy did not use him to his strengths.

“He talked about what upset him,” Van Gundy said to Schmitz. “Gilbert was not as frustrated with his playing time as he was (during the season). It’s different once you’re out of the heat of battle. He’s an intelligent guy. He had a frustration that we didn’t play to his strengths. I think he had a valid point.”

That echoes what Otis Smith intimated when he said Van Gundy and Arenas needed to get on the same page after the season and what Dwight Howard said about Arenas. Arenas has been working out in Orlando and appears to be working his way back into shape. Neither I nor Stan need to tell Magic fans how important that could be when the 2012 season starts. Still Van Gundy said it will be tough for him to unseat Nelson at the moment. Things can change in camp though.

And apparently Van Gundy can change too. Or at least he can try to. We will see how much he sticks to his new mantra when the season starts and he is in the heat of a game.

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