Stan Van Gundy Reportedly Fired as Pelicans Head Coach After 1 Season

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 16, 2021

MILWAUKEE, WI - FEBRUARY 25: Head Coach Stan Van Gundy of the New Orleans Pelicans looks on during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 25, 2021 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images).
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans have fired head coach Stan Van Gundy, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez.

Wojnarowski added Van Gundy's departure felt "inevitable" after meetings with executive vice president David Griffin.

The Pelicans missed the playoffs for the third straight season in 2020-21, finishing 11th in the Western Conference at 31-41.

According to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, assistant coaches Teresa Weatherspoon and Fred Vinson have emerged as candidates to succeed Van Gundy.

Wojnarowski provided more on New Orleans' coaching search:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

In search for a replacement, Pelicans are expected to circle back among some candidates from a year ago, including assistants Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka (Brooklyn), Charles Lee (Milwaukee) and Jason Kidd (Lakers), sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/sAduFLcEiG

The Pels' failure to even make the play-in tournament was disappointing but not entirely surprising.

Despite trading Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, the franchise showed ambition ahead of the 2019-20 campaign by adding JJ Redick and Derrick Favors to a young roster headlined by Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.

However, sending Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2020 offseason for two first-round picks and two first-round pick swaps seemed to signal a shift in short-term priorities, even though New Orleans also acquired Steven Adams to fortify its frontcourt

Regardless, the Pelicans weren't satisfied with what Van Gundy delivered.

The team fell from 21st in defensive rating (111.8) to 23rd (113.3), per NBA.com, the opposite of what many expected given Van Gundy's profile as a defensive-minded coach.

NOLA.com's Scott Kushner reported in May a level of "tension" lingered between Van Gundy and his players. Kushner also pointed to comments from The Athletic's Sam Amick, who said the roster was "not vibing with the coach."

The Pelicans will be an attractive vacancy for prospective candidates.

Ball is due to hit restricted free agency, but Williamson and Ingram represent a dynamic tandem around which to build a contender. Williamson made his first All-Star appearance this season and averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Ingram matched his scoring average (23.8) from 2019-20 in the first season of his five-year, $158.3 million extension.

Their contributions haven't translated into winning, though, and Van Gundy's quick ouster will raise questions. Although executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin didn't oversee the Davis era, it's impossible to separate Wednesday's news from the lack of success the Pelicans enjoyed in previous years.

Larry Holder @LarryHolder

This is another failed chapter of the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans franchise. Instability has been the common theme going back as far as I can recall. When can anyone actually take this franchise seriously?

Fans in the Big Easy are aware of how stagnation can alienate a franchise cornerstone.

New Orleans doesn't yet need to worry about losing Ingram or Williamson, but the front office can't whiff this badly on another head-coaching hire.