Jeff Van Gundy might be out of a job, but he’s not out of options.
Of all of the ESPN layoffs, none was more head-scratching than the Worldwide Leader’s decision to oust Van Gundy. Van Gundy represents everything you want from an NBA broadcaster. He’s smart, opinionated, and funny. It was a colossal mistake to let him go. But now that he’s hitting the open market, it’s time for him to join forces with another smart, opinionated, and funny Van Gundy.
Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy are distinguished voices of basketball. They have been successful coaches and successful broadcasters. Someone needs to pair them together. You could do the easy thing and have them work as co-analysts for an NBA game. But that also seems too limiting. You could expand the Van Gundy brand to a studio show, variety show, podcast, or other format.
Of course, we’re assuming the brothers don’t go back to coaching. Stan Van Gundy, a TNT analyst, has said that it’s ‘unlikely’ that gets another head coaching opportunity. As for Jeff Van Gundy, there have been reports that he is considering returning to the bench as an assistant. Seems like an odd pivot for a guy who hasn’t worked in that role since 1996. Why be an assistant for someone else when media jobs pay well and are less stressful?
The Van Gundys are fascinating. Siblings whose careers have followed similar paths. Both were assistants under Pat Riley (Jeff with the New York Knicks and Stan with the Miami Heat). Both coached teams to the NBA Finals (Jeff with the New York Knicks in 1999 and Stan with the Orlando Magic in 2009). Both have earned praise as color commentators for NBA broadcasts.
Plenty of coaches become analysts. But what has always separated the Van Gundys from their peers is their blunt honesty. You never get the sense that they’re simply parroting the league’s talking points. When they see something they don’t agree with, they are quick to let the viewer know, whether it’s Jeff ripping the officiating or Stan’s annoyance at load management. That’s refreshing and welcome.
The Van Gundys also don’t stick to sports. They have hot takes that go beyond the court. Some good. Some questionable, but almost always entertaining.
Stan Van Gundy is known for his regular appearances on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz where he’ll opine on a variety of topics from food to his intense hatred of The Banshees of Inisherin. Jeff Van Gundy has shared his thoughts on Law & Order: SVU and “Enter Sandman.”
The Van Gundys clearly have good instincts on what makes good television. Whether they intentionally do so or not. But what we haven’t seen is them working in unison to create good content. They might not be the Kelce Brothers, but they don’t have to be. Stan (63 years old) and Jeff (61) can lean into their curmudgeonly aesthetic. We don’t necessarily mean that they should be typecast as grumpy old men. But their views are shaped by their lifetime of experiences.
The NBA, perhaps more than any other sport, is a league of personalities. Those are often revealed in stories about legendary figures. That helps craft the mythology which goes a long way in selling the league. Star players are famous for what happens on the court and off the court. (Victor Wembanyama has already become more famous after the Britney Spears incident).
The Van Gundys can offer great stories about players from their past and insights into players of the present. And they’ll do so in an engaging way. Let’s unite them and see what else they have to say.
These brothers in basketball should be brothers in broadcasting.
[Top photo of the Van Gundys calling a game together from ESPN, via Insider]