To the casual fan (and even in Ed's opinion), Van Gundy’s not too much more than a yeller and a screamer. He’s also the same man who coached the Magic to the NBA Finals last year, where they were defeated at the hands of the Lakers. Van Gundy was also labeled “The Master of Panic,” by Shaquille O’Neal a couple of years ago. At the time, it seemed fine to pile on Van Gundy, since he was at the head of the Miami Heat, when they failed to reach the NBA Finals in 2005, which led to Pat Riley taking over, and getting Miami over the hump, when they defeated the Mavericks in the NBA Finals the following year. To take it a step further, people were quick to give him more credence as being a Ron Jeremy clone, and not as an excellent NBA coach. By no means am I saying Van Gundy is a great coach, but I do think he’s the right coach for an Orlando Magic team who suffered invaluable losses in their personnel last season, only to come back and still be within two games of returning to the NBA Finals.
Make no mistake about it: I still believe that Boston is tougher than Orlando, has advantages in key areas, and should win this series. However, they made the biggest mistake in not closing this thing out. After Orlando was destroyed in Game Three, Van Gundy pretty much took all the blame, which basically told me that all the players had to do was go out and play. People are either failing to understand, or simply do not want to give Van Gundy credit for deflecting the attention and ire of his team away from his players, and putting it all on himself. It was a masterfully brilliant move on his part, and he also proclaimed his belief that someone's going to come back from 3-0 one day, and it starts with winning Game Four. They did just that, and that’s where it came clear to me that Stan Van Gundy earned the title of The Master of Motivation.
Besides, let's look at the obvious. It’s not his fault that Vince Carter isn’t worth a damn, or that Rashard Lewis is playing like Emmanuel Lewis, or that Hedo walked, and that Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston got traded. Despite all these factors, Van Gundy’s found a way to infuse life into his team. There's no shame in saying that, and if it means I am crowning the man too early, then it’s a charge I will gladly take.
Boston has no choice, but to close this out on Friday night. The Magic have all the momentum in the world. Van Gundy has found a way to adjust and take advantage of what Boston is doing, which includes playing Gortat and Dwight Howard together (which he rarely did all season), as well as giving JJ Redick extended minutes (we at ETSF have become Redick fans; the irony is unreal), as well as giving Brandon Bass more minutes. With these factors in play, Boston should be beyond concerned, and if they don’t close this out on Friday, the Magic will destroy them on Sunday, and we’ll all be able to trace the turnaround back to Saturday night, when Van Gundy put himself in the fire, took all the blame for his team’s shortcomings, but also set himself up as the leader of the greatest turnaround in NBA history. You read it here first.
P.S. If you missed our live show, you can download our weekly podcast of "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" on the ETSF Radio Network, as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan!