As a coach in New York, he had to be strong and tough but from afar Jeff Van Gundy often looked like droopy dog.
Sure, he was successful, but it was difficult to gauge his passion and personality, perhaps because he worked so hard and guided the Knicks teams under his tutelage as far as they could go. Maybe farther.
He looked like a basketball lifer who had no time for fun. Or anything funny.
As a TV analyst, though, Van Gundy's opinions and personality resonate. He's often funny. He's regularly insightful. And when he has something to say, he's not afraid to share it.
The latest came Wednesday night during a matchup between Orlando Magic and New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden. When Magic star Dwight Howard remained in his seat on the bench during a timeout. Neither he nor Jameer Nelson ever joined their teammates and coach Stan Van Gundy (Jeff's brother, so the criticism of Howard must be kept in some perspective) during the break. The opinions that followed were clear and pointed.
Said Jeff Van Gundy:
"When did it become alright, I was watching the Magic at that timeout where Howard and Nelson didn’t join the huddle. Last night (the Lakers) Andrew Bynum doesn’t join the huddle. When did it become acceptable that you just aren’t a part of it when it’s not going well, and you separate yourself like, 'This is not my problem' or you don’t support your teammate. The least you can do is just get up. I don’t understand. I read that (Lakers coach ) Mike Brown said he didn’t have a rule that Bynum has to get up. Should you need a rule?"
Accurate and on the point. And exactly what a game analyst should provide. Sure, it's beyond Xs and Os, but it was what viewers saw themselves. Additionally, the game's producer and director complemented his work with appropriate camera shots.
It was good, albeit typical, moment for the solid analyst, made even better by the effort of the entire broadcast team.
Best of all, Van Gundy did not paint it as only a Magic problem -- so that helped limit possible complaints that he was protecting his brother. (Although it does seem a lot of his more public moments do relate to the Magic.) Still, his ability to frame such disinterest as a league-wide situation made the matter more appropriate.