New Orleans Pelicans: Did Stan Van Gundy hold the Pels back from the playoffs?

Stan Van Gundy of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Stan Van Gundy of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

On Wednesday morning, the New Orleans Pelicans relieved Stan Van Gundy from his head coach position.

SVG only coached the Pelicans for one season with a 31-41 record and they finished 11th in the West, missing out on the play-in tournament. It was a disappointing season for the Pelicans because this team was ready to be playoff material, but Van Gundy’s coaching style might have held the Pelicans off from that goal.

What was truly frustrating were Van Gundy’s terrible rotations. When the Pelicans needed their big three on the court, it felt like he would keep in the bench longer than needed, setting the Pelicans back. In crunch time scenarios, it also felt that the Pelicans were not coached as well down the stretch. For instance, there were several games where Zion Williamson did not get the ball to close the game, especially when he had the hot hand—which was more often than not.

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Additionally, it was very easy to tell what the Pelicans plays were. SVG would just feed Zion in the post, but that did not help with spacing or moving the ball around more. These predictable plays and simple passing resulted in turnovers, with the Pels finishing top 10 in the NBA in total turnovers for the season with 1052.

Van Gundy was a defense-oriented coach. In one of the first practices of the season, Van Gundy had a three-hour defensive practice, but the Pelicans were 24th in the NBA in points allowed per game and 29th in three-pointers allowed. This team was very relaxed on defense and that was their weak point. If they want to make the playoffs next season they will have to be in the top half of the list.

In his first interview as head coach of the Pelicans, Van Gundy had a lot of hope for this young team.

"[There’s] a lot of really exciting young talent, with the potential to grow into something great. But alongside them, you’ve got some very productive, high-character veterans with great experience.”"

However, those hopes quickly evaporated. Now, franchise star Zion Williamson will enter his third year in the NBA with his third different coach. Consistency is key for the New Orleans Pelicans if they want to keep their star players, such as Zion, happy.

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