Stan Van Gundy and 8 Former Coaches We'd Love to See as Studio Analysts
While it's generally hard to put a finger on the former players and coaches that will be good when they're in front of a television camera, it seems to be a pretty universal opinion that Stan Van Gundy is going to knock it out of the park as a new studio analyst for ESPN's NBA Countdown.
Among other things, Van Gundy is a knowledgeable basketball mind with a passion for the game that usually has a tendency to package itself in entertaining ways when he's in front of a camera with a microphone clipped to his lapel.
Van Gundy is hardly the first former coach to make the switch over to the studio rather than looking for another coaching gig, and he'll hardly be the last. You've got to figure that after coaching in such a high-pressure situation for so many years, sitting in front of a camera and trying to entertain people will be a walk in the park.
With his hiring at ESPN, the question soon arises about other guys in his situation. What former NBA head coaches out there would be the best in the studio for ESPN or TNT with an analysts' gig?
With so many guys falling flat on their faces in their foray into the television world, it's hard to pick them precisely, but there are a few candidates that stick out more than others.
8. Nate McMillan
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It seems like it would be a coin flip as to whether Nate McMillan makes a successful television personality, which are actually pretty good odds compared to some of the guys of the past that have tried their hand at switching careers.
McMillan isn't one of the greatest coaches of all time, but he is one of the more colorful and excitable coaches of the past decade, willing to hoot and holler at the drop of a hat.
Aside from that, McMillan has been in the NBA in some form for every year since 1986, when he was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics.
He might be one of the riskier choices to put on television, but hey, he can't do any worse than Magic Johnson when he first started in the T.V. game. Hell, he can't be any worse than Magic Johnson right now.
7. Eddie Jordan
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Sure, he just signed on as an assistant for the Los Angeles Lakers in order to help them incorporate the Princeton Offense into their game, but a big television contract might be enough to wrestle him away at some point.
Jordan is not only one of the younger guys who can call themselves a former head coach, but he's also a very lively and energetic person when it comes to basketball.
As far as basketball experience goes, Jordan has been around the game in some form for nearly every year since 1977, missing a few between 1988 and 1992 and a year here and there when he was between coaching jobs.
When it comes to broadcasting, Jordan's got no experience, but just watching in interviews you can get a feel for his charisma and his passion for the game. Beyond that, he's got a pretty good voice and a knowledge of the game that few people have, including former coaches.
6. Mike D'Antoni
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Over the past decade, there have been few head coaches thrust into the limelight more so than Mike D'Antoni.
Whether it be people criticizing his desire to run the ball down the throats of every opponent that steps on the floor against him or giving him praise as an offensive innovator the game sorely needed, people seem to have some definite opinion about D'Antoni.
Besides all that, few people have played in the NBA and coached successfully in Europe, the NBA and with Team USA in the Olympics. That alone is worthy of him coming onto a television set near you and dropping some knowledge down on us.
D'Antoni has proven himself to be a very articulate, well-spoken person over the past decade, and besides that he's got a mustache so well groomed that the camera won't be able to pan away from him. There's much more to like about the possibility of D'Antoni on television.
5. Mo Cheeks
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It might be rather difficult to convince him to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he sits as an assistant coach what with them on the verge of winning a title in the next few seasons, but it seems a slam dunk that he would be a good studio analyst.
He's been a part of the league every year but one since 1978, when he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers.
On the very seldom-seen end of the spectrum, Cheeks is a very soft-spoken former head coach, and besides that he seems like a very bright, amiable fellow who feels comfortable talking to anyone at any time.
Regardless of all that, one of the main reasons we should want to see Mo Cheeks in a broadcasting situation is in the chance that he should cross paths with Jeff Van Gundy on air so we can get his feelings on Van Gundy naming his cat after him.
4. Don Nelson
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Innovation is certainly a good reason to put Don Nelson on T.V., but the main thing that sticks out in my mind about him over the final years that he was a coach was just how much he didn't care about the criticism that came from all around him.
The Warriors were struggling to meet expectations in the seasons following their 2007 upset win over the Dallas Mavericks, but Nelson just kept on coaching the way he knew how to coach. Nellyball at its finest.
That particular quality is usually easy to translate to television, just as Charles Barkley has done. He's not a particularly outstanding broadcaster in his core, but he cares so little about what other people tell him about the right way to do things that his personality shines through and makes for hilarious television.
Could Don Nelson be the white Charles Barkley? Probably not in terms of overall entertainment value, but he would be as true and honest as Barkley is and more basketball-savvy than the big fellow.
3. Mike Fratello
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Mike Fratello has been around television cameras nearly as long as he was a coach in the NBA, jumping onto a microphone for the first time in 1990.
Fratello has most recently been a part of the YES Network as a color commentator alongside Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Ian Eagle intermittently, plus he is the most recent head coach of the Ukraine National Basketball team, which is just terrific.
For years, The Czar has done an excellent job of being the coach in the broadcast booth, but we've never really been allowed to see him in a more natural setting with him as a pregame analyst.
It's time to throw him in the studio and replace one of the young bucks who think it's their job to try to be funny all show long. Bring in a guy who can talk about basketball and be naturally entertaining without trying to force anything.
2. Stan Van Gundy
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There's no question that when it comes to being a studio analyst the most important thing is personality.
Sure, knowing a little bit about basketball here and there helps, but if you can portray yourself as a person well enough, people will grow to like you.
Stan Van Gundy is going to bring a terrific amount of basketball knowledge to the table. There's no doubt about that, but there isn't another coach in the NBA with the feisty temper or the disregard for putting a fine filter over his mouth.
Sure, he'll catch the big things and hold them back, but most of what he's thinking he seems to put out there if he's asked.
He's seemingly an honest guy with a knack for talking in front of a camera, plus he's got firsthand experience with one of the most intriguing stories in the game in the past year, which is Dwight Howard's wriggling free of Orlando and flight to Los Angeles.
Van Gundy could very well be the best thing to happen to ESPN's studio show since it fell apart after Dan Patrick left and they replaced Bill Walton with Jon Barry.
1. Phil Jackson
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Television has already seen a more quirky basketball personality than Phil Jackson in Bill Walton, who became a favorite over the years that he was drawing out syllables and pulling out his thesaurus, confusing us all with his diatribes about this and that.
Jackson, however, brings an entirely different kind of zany to television.
He's not outwardly awkward or strange in general, but as one of the best basketball coaches of all time, he's a bit unassuming and unexpectedly calm.
Even still, few guys out there have more knowledge of the game than Jackson, and no former head coach knows more about the interactions of players and what they mean in terms of contributing to a basketball team.
Bringing the Zen Master to television would not only be a nearly guaranteed success, but it would finally bring a unique and unexpected personality back to the broadcasting game, which is something that hasn't varied enough with the likes of Jon Barry and Magic Johnson populating the airwaves.
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