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Stan Van Gundy: From Vermont to Lowell to the NBA

Mike PetragliaCorrespondent IMay 6, 2009

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MAY 05:  Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Orlando Magic talks with Carsos Arroyo #30 while playing the Detroit Pistons in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs at the Palace of Auburn Hills May 5, 2008 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Detroit won the game 100-93 to take a 2-0 series lead. 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.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy has been criticized by some players for being too uptight on the bench during NBA.

He was anything but just 90 minutes before Game Two of his team’s Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Celtics on Wednesday night at TD Banknorth Garden.

Van Gundy reflected on his first head coaching job, a Division III gig with Castleton State in Vermont, just two years out of the University of Vermont. He would move onto UMass-Lowell, where he coached for four years, and had the privilege of mentoring Leo Parent, the Division II player of the year in 1988.

“Leo Parent was the best Division II player in the nation,” Van Gundy said. “Even though it was tough at times, he could carry a team for his level, he was maybe the best player I’ve ever coach relative to the level he was playing on.

“At Lowell we had one writer and that was it. At Castleton, we had no writers. I got to call in the games so I always coached well. I could talk about the great adjustments and everything else. But seriously, you can make mistakes out of the limelight. And I think those kind of jobs helped a great deal.”

Van Gundy recalled one moment in particular and then compared it to another he witnessed in the NBA.

“At Castelton, I was a Division III head coach and I called a time out at the end of the game I didn’t have,” Van Gundy said. “Now, I’ve seen that. Pat Riley did that when I was in Miami but I’d rather do that at Castleton than in the NBA.”

He was actually asked Wednesday what would be more fun, winning an NBA title or those early days coaching in the college ranks.

“I don’t know,” Van Gundy said. “This is different. I don’t mean it bad. This is enjoyable and I’ve got a great group of guys in there. It’s just different. At level, college coaching, you get a lot closer to the people you’re coaching. I was younger. You’re not jaded and cynical, not that I am now. Those were great memories.

“This is a great experience. But you can’t match the fun that you had at those lower levels. You can’t match the fun. Those kids are playing just because they love to play. There isn’t a lot of scrutiny.”

Van Gundy said he will always look fondly upon those early years in coaching.

“At Castleton, I was 24 years old, I was a head coach. I was making $8,500 a year, only $1,500 from coaching,” he said. "The rest of it, I got to line soccer fields before games, supervise student workers, hand out equipment for PE classes. I was a high-level guy, a high-level guy. At that time, I actually thought I was a good coach."

“This is great. Enough of talking about Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and those guys.”

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