Stan Van Gundy Rips Pelicans, Says High Schoolers Would Have Avoided Late Error

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy reacts in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy didn't sugarcoat his feelings about his team's defensive error that allowed Reggie Bullock to hit a game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation.

Following the New York Knicks' 122-112 overtime win, Van Gundy told reporters that "high school guys would've done what they're supposed to do" in reference to the end of the fourth quarter.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

“Today, with 7.8 seconds left, high school guys would’ve done what they’re supposed to do.” Stan Van Gundy on the Pels defensive mistake that sent the game to OT 😳 https://t.co/WBDhaEjooY

As Doris Burke noted on the ESPN broadcast, the Pelicans would've been fine if they had allowed Derrick Rose to coast to an open layup. Instead, Lonzo Ball sagged off Bullock long enough to allow the Knicks swingman to have a clear jumper in the corner.

Stefan Bondy @SBondyNYDN

There were two boneheaded mistakes from the Pelicans. First, Eric Bledsoe was supposed to foul Derrick Rose. He didn't. Then Lonzo Ball wasn't supposed to leave Reggie Bullock wide open on the 3-point line. https://t.co/fzsX7PlGBU

Van Gundy might have felt the need to light a fire under his squad given where the Pelicans sit in the Western Conference.

With 15 games left in the regular season, New Orleans is three games behind the 10th-place San Antonio Spurs, which would mean missing out on the play-in tournament. Even though the franchise didn't have title aspirations entering the year—hence trading Jrue Holiday—failing to earn a play-in bid would likely be deemed a disappointment.

Van Gundy's comments may have also spoken to a larger frustration. The Pelicans are 27th in defensive rating (114.6), down from 21st in 2019-20 (111.8), per NBA.com. The hiring of Van Gundy was supposed to fortify the defense, and the opposite has happened.