BOSTON — Former NBA coach and longtime commentator Jeff Van Gundy won’t be on the Celtics sideline even though he’s with the organization. Instead, he’s around to help on the basketball operations side, including with the G-League Maine Celtics.
Still, even without Van Gundy explicitly on the sideline on Joe Mazzulla’s staff, he brings a lot of value to the organization. Mazzulla said, when he is in Boston, Van Gundy will be in every meeting as just another resource for the second-year coach and the rest of the roster. Mazzulla described it as a “bird’s eye view” where Van Gundy can look at the Celtics from an unbiased perspective.
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“Anytime you can add like high-character, high-level, professional people, I think it’s a no-brainer,” Mazzulla said. “Fortunate enough that he’s here, not just for the coaching staff, but for everybody and he’s been through every imaginable situation in the NBA, in coaching, FIBA, NBA and so we’re just lucky to have him. And he’s a great listener and a great worker. So he’s added a lot of value, even in the first couple of weeks.”
Van Gundy spent the last 16 seasons with ESPN as a color commentator. But he was laid off by the network this summer, allowing him to explore future opportunities. Now, he’s with the Celtics as he had a preexisting relationship with Boston president Brad Stevens.
Van Gundy was an NBA coach before his time on TV. He had a 430-318 record in 11 seasons as a head coach for the Knicks and Rockets. He also led New York to the 1999 NBA Finals, losing to the Spurs. He’s a respected voice in the NBA, and the Celtics get to pick his brain consistently.
“Try to run a lot of stuff by him,” Mazzulla said. “It’s good to get a guy who hasn’t been here before that can kind of have an unbiased opinion as to where he thinks things are, and where they need to go. And so he’s kind of like a fresh set of eyes because he’s not around all the time. And he’s looking at it from an unbiased position, which kind of gives us an advantage because you kind of see it in a different perspective.”