Jeff Van Gundy has become one of the most recognizable voices in the NBA.
There have been rumors that the former head coach will return to an NBA bench in the near future, but for now, he remains at the broadcast table and continues to help increase the entertainment value of the finals (as if LeBron James and Steph Curry really need any help in that department).
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about this 53-year-old national treasure.
1. He Has 9 Playoff Appearances in 11 Seasons as a Head Coach
Van Gundy, who worked as a graduate assistant under Rick Pitino at Providence College, joined the New York Knicks in 1989 and was promoted to head coach in 1996. In seven seasons in the Big Apple, he compiled a record of 248-172 (.590), made the playoffs six times and famously made it to the NBA finals as the No. 8 seed in 1999.
After leaving the Knicks in the middle of the 2001-02 season, Van Gundy was hired by the Houston Rockets in 2003. There, he went 182-146 (.555) and made three more playoff appearances but was never able to lead his team past the first round. Houston fired him following a Game 7 loss to the Utah Jazz.
There was a buzz that the New Orleans Pelicans were looking to hire him for the 2015-16 season, but they went with Alvin Gentry instead.
2. He Has Twice Tried to Play Peacemaker Unsuccessfully
During Game 4 of the first round of the 1998 playoffs, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning erupted into a late brawl. Van Gundy attempted to separate the men by holding onto the leg of Alonzo Mourning, who stood about a foot taller and 70 pounds heavier.
Unsurprisingly, as you can see above, it didn’t work.
In 2001, Van Gundy’s Knicks got into another fracas. This time, it was Marcus Camby looking to take out Danny Ferry. Once again, Van Gundy tried to step in the middle.
And once again, he lost:
Van Gundy needed 12-15 stiches as a result from his own player’s headbutt, and after the game, he admitted his days as a peacemaker are over.
3. He Has Been a Broadcaster for ESPN Since 2007
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) October 23, 2014
After his dismissal from the Rockets, Van Gundy joined ESPN as a color commentator and has been in that role ever since.
Along with fellow color man Mark Jackson and play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, the trio has established itself as one of the most recognizable and entertaining broadcast teams in all of sports. Van Gundy and Breen have been on the call for every NBA finals since 2007, while Jackson has only missed out when he was coaching the Golden State Warriors in 2012 and 2013.
4. His Brother is Detroit Pistons Head Coach Stan Van Gundy
Jeff’s older brother is Stan Van Gundy, who has had a similarly interesting trip around the NBA. After a solid stint with the Miami Heat, Stan enjoyed immense success with the Orlando Magic, winning three division titles in five seasons and advancing to the NBA finals in 2009. But Van Gundy claimed star center Dwight Howard wanted him fired, and he was let go just a few months later.
Jeff’s nationally-televised rants directed at Howard are thoroughly entertaining and honest.
Fortunately, Stan has gotten back on his feet and is now the head coach and president basketball of operations for the Detroit Pistons. Their father is Bill Van Gundy, who has coached at the lower collegiate level.
5. He Had a Feud With Howard Stern in 2014
Stan, of course, isn’t the only Van Gundy, to have a tiff with a Howard.
During a Knicks game in 2014, Van Gundy noticed that popular radio host Howard Stern was leaving the game early and proceeded to criticize him on the ESPN broadcast. Stern wasn’t exactly happy about Van Gundy’s comments, and fired back with a profanity-laced rant. Cooler heads prevailed, though, as Van Gundy laughed it off.
“If you think I was thinking about saving the world from celebrities leaving their seats too early and I was going to make a demand that they stick through a blowout, I was just messing around,” said Van Gundy in an interview with ESPN’s Dan Le Batard. “But his response, c’mon, I didn’t think it was sensitive, I thought it was funny.”