Jeff Van Gundy hasn’t coached in the NBA in more than a decade, but his return to the sidelines looks more realistic now than ever. The ESPN broadcaster interviewed with the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and conversations will continue into Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Van Gundy coached the New York Knicks from 1996-2001, and then the Rockets from 2003-2007. Van Gundy still lives in Houston, but has not coached in the NBA since. His recent resume, aside from broadcasting for ESPN, has been limited to national team duties. Van Gundy coached Team USA in the qualifying rounds for the FIBA World Cup, leading a team of no-names to the gold medal at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup.
Van Gundy has been linked to jobs in the past. He was a finalist for the New Orleans Pelicans gig in 2015 (which, ironically, may go to his brother Stan Van Gundy in 2020), and has come up in Knicks rumors in the past, but his connection to the Rockets and the city of Houston gives him an edge in this process. The only question is how he would adjust to Houston’s ultra-modern roster.
The Rockets rose to third in 3-point attempts in Van Gundy’s final season, but at just 23.1 attempts per game, they would have ranked dead last by a mile this season — the Rockets led the NBA with 45.3 3-point attempts per game, and league average was 34.1. Houston’s roster, built around James Harden and no centers, is designed to play a style of basketball that did not exist during Van Gundy’s time as an NBA coach.
Coaches can modernize, and Van Gundy hasn’t been away from the NBA entirely since leaving the world of coaching. But the Rockets are unique even among modern teams, and if he wants this job, he is going to have to convince their front office that he is capable of working with a kind of team he has no first-hand experience leading or even coaching against. With former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Ty Lue still in the mix, that could prove an uphill battle.