Jeff Van Gundy has made a vow that his first trip to Allen Fieldhouse will not be his last.
“I have to get back here for a game. I can’t die without seeing a game here,” the 49-year-old NBA television analyst and former head coach of the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets said before speaking to several hundred coaches at Saturday’s Bill Self coaches clinic in Kansas University’s tradition-rich building.
“It’s been really an eye-opening experience,” added Van Gundy. “To see the (Booth) Hall of Fame, the practice facility, the great offices ... they didn’t need to sacrifice tradition for newness. They haven’t messed with the arena, and it’s awesome.”
Van Gundy took notes during KU’s weekend practices and during speeches of Hall of Famer Larry Brown and KU coach Self.
“I was saying to Joe (Dooley, KU assistant) earlier, knowing him (Self) somewhat, but seeing the team practice, it’s a program based on humility,” Van Gundy said. “I mean the guy (Self) ... he could stop tomorrow, and he’d be in the Hall of Fame, yet he never conducts himself as such that he is any better than anybody else. I think his team reflects that in that they play hard, smart, together but with great humbleness.”
Though mostly known for his work in the NBA, Van Gundy served as assistant coach at both Providence and Rutgers.
Could he see himself as a college coach?
“You know, I think I could,” Van Gundy said. “I watched Bill’s practice, and I’m like, ‘Wow, that would be fun.’ I think the recruiting part would not be as enjoyable, but the actual coaching would be fantastic.”
He’s been in broadcasting full time since leaving the Rockets in May of 2007.
“I like the guys I work with because I’ve known them forever, so that part is really good,” Van Gundy said of ESPN/ABC broadcast partners Mike Breen and Mark Jackson. “Mike was an announcer with the Knicks, and Mark I coached a number of times as an assistant and head coach. I’m very fortunate in who I’ve worked with.
“The announcing affords you a certain ability to be at home with your kids more,” Van Gundy added. “You get to see more of their events, but nothing replaces the competition and camaraderie you get from coaching.”
When will the 1985 Nazareth (NY) College graduate be back on the bench?
“My dad (Bill former head coach at Brockport State in western New York) gave me a great piece of advice long, long ago: ‘Just worry about the job you’ve got right now,’” Van Gundy said. “That’s served me well. When you come to watch great practices and great coaches work, it gets you excited all over again to coach.”
He offered some advice to the high school, small college and junior college coaches who attended Self’s clinic.
“Back when I worked for Pat Riley and never thought of myself of being able to ascend to being a head coach in the NBA, he said, ‘Coaching confidence is every bit as important as playing confidence,’’’ Van Gundy said. “The way you develop that is to be competent in what you do, sincere, reliable and trustworthy. I think that also has served me well, to believe in myself more, especially when I was younger.”