Jeff Van Gundy isn’t the first broadcaster to bemoan social media, but he certainly won’t be the last.
ESPN/ABC NBA analyst Van Gundy recently made an appearance on the Sports Media with Richard Deitsch podcast and he was asked about Victor Wembanyama and whether he’s had the chance to see the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft play before.
Wembanyama is a generational prospect, standing at 7-foot-4 and often described as a “unicorn.”
During his coaching career, Van Gundy had the unique opportunity to coach both Patrick Ewing and Yao Ming, two players who transcended the center position. While it would be a disservice to compare Wembanyama to Ewing or Ming, as the skillsets between the trio of players largely differ, Van Gundy has experience coaching big men who shoulder a lot of expectations.
Van Gundy brought up a concern of his, as he pointed to somebody on one of these shows—it was Chris Broussard on FS1’s First Things First—who claimed that if Wembanyama becomes Kevin Durant or someone of that ilk, “it’ll be a disappointment.”
.@Chris_Broussard: If Wemby is AD, KD or Hakeem, that's a disappointment. I expect him to be one of the best players ever — to have a career like LeBron, Jordan, Duncan, Shaq or Kareem.@getnickwright: Then the expectations are too high. The Spurs should go after the title now. pic.twitter.com/ARKUozIkOu
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) May 17, 2023
“I just hope we all just give him the necessary time to acclimate to the NBA and we don’t over-evaluate each and every game,” Van Gundy said. “All of these young people take so much of their cues on how they’re doing through social media. I just hope we’re just a little bit kinder to him than we are to some people on social media.”
Deitsch argued that he believes social media would be “horrible” to Wembanyama, but he may have an advantage being from France and not being into the social media culture that has wrapped its arms around the United States.
“I think [social media] does have a truly negative impact on players and how they feel about themselves,” Van Gundy said.
While Van Gundy coached in the era before social media, he dealt with criticism from sports talk radio and newspaper back pages, especially when he was the head coach of the New York Knicks from 1996-2001. Not to say it’s the same, but he learned some valuable lessons regarding finding a balance between the praise and criticism that’ll come through the media.
“The best thing I ever did with the really bad newspaper back pages [when he coached the Knicks], I’d cut them out and put them on my wall because that keeps your humility,” Van Gundy said. Like ‘VAN GONE-DY’ or ‘BACK UP THE VAN IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON.’ I could walk into my office every day and see the back pages hung up. It was humbling. You have to try to make light of it.”
“Right now, in broadcasting, I’ve had people I’ve worked with that are on social media and they really get down about what Joe Fan says on Twitter. They’ll go after games to see what fans say about them and it really bums them out. I just don’t get it. If you’re going on there for validation, you think somebody is actually going to say, ‘Hey, great job, ESPN! I really enjoyed listening to Broadcaster X.'” I’m sure that just doesn’t happen very often.”