With the lead up to Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, a lot is being written about Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy this week, and rightfully so. SVG has been overlooked, written off, cast-aside time and time again. Lets go through the rather lengthy list of slights:
First off, Jeff Van Gundy was always thought to be the "better" coach, at least now we'll think Jeff might just be the better TV analyst. After taking Miami back to the playoffs, SVG was forced to resign by Pat Riley only to see Miami win the Championship that very year. The Magic had originally signed Billy Donovan to be their coach-in-saviour only to have Donovan pull a runaway bride (in some random Vegas gym scouting the next Nick Calathes, Donovan is left wondering what could've been -- woulda, shoulda, coulda) and leaving the Magic to "settle" for SVG -- always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
There was the very public squabble with a former player who played under SVG, Shaq, who ranted and raved about SVG's supposed "master of panic" which has yet to materialize so far. When all-star point-guard Jameer Nelson was lost for the season and the Magic stumbled initially, they and SVG were subsequently written off. Incredible back-to-back comebacks in this year's playoffs, down 2-1 to the 76ers, down 3-2 to the Celtics. The most difficult snub perhaps came from his own team, franchise player Dwight Howard making a very public challenge in questioning SVG's coaching abilities, and everyone including myself saying SVG was probably toast. Finally, taking on the game's most prolific player in Lebron, overcoming that last second game-winner in Game 2, and still winning the series over the heavily favored Cavs in 6.
Even in comparing rosters, no coach has had to assume the leadership mantle more than SVG -- the Lakers have plenty of leaders on their roster to rely on, who do the Magic have? Howard? Too immature. Rashard? Too quiet. Turkoglu? Too enigmatic. SVG is the coach, the captain, the leader, the button-pusher. If the Magic win, it's clear who led them all the way to the Land of Canaan.
When you really add it all up, it is unbelievable what he and his family have gone through. SVG is the embodiment of resilience, throughout it all he's never wavered, never compromised his principles, and he's always been honest in everything that he does. Win or lose in these NBA Finals, one thing is clear, SVG can flat out coach, there is no doubt about that. I leave you with this clip from ESPN, the best SVG soundbites so far this playoffs, enjoy...