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Jeff Van Gundy still regrets quitting as Knicks head coach, says Doc Rivers didn’t quit on Celtics

Jun 29, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT

Jeff Van Gundy AP

Jeff Van Gundy does a stellar job for ESPN and ABC as an NBA analyst, but he was once one of the better head coaches in the league over the course of several seasons.

Van Gundy coached the New York Knicks for parts of seven straight seasons, before voluntarily leaving that job to take a year off. He then coached the Houston Rockets for four more years before leaving the profession altogether, but still regrets giving up on that position with the Knicks to this day.

Speaking on Doc Rivers and the situation with him leaving the Celtics to become head coach of the Clippers, Van Gundy defended Rivers, while citing his own experience in how things ended for him in New York as an example of what quitting truly means.

From Al Innazzone of Newsday:

Van Gundy opened up about his “bad decision” Friday during an interview on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN radio. They were discussing Doc Rivers’ decision to leave the Celtics to become the Clippers’ coach. Van Gundy defended Rivers, saying what he did 12 1/2 years ago was worse.

“I quit the Knicks, so I know what quitting is,” he said. “I did it. I quit. And it’s something I regret to this day . . . I was just emotionally spent. I made a bad decision and I quit.

“Doc Rivers didn’t quit. He was allowed to pursue a better opportunity for himself. That’s a significant, significant difference that everybody’s glossing over.”

Rivers was going to be paid $7 million per season for three more years if he stayed in Boston, to coach a team that wasn’t going to even make the playoffs once ownership decided it was time to blow things up. His leaving may seem like he was bailing on the team, but it was really the best decision to make for both sides.

Van Gundy left the Knicks after just 19 games in 2001, and said his situation was much worse than that of Rivers’.

“I had a great job with the Knicks,” Van Gundy said. “I let . . . frustration overwhelm me when I should have taken more time to come to that conclusion or a conclusion. Mine was certainly worse.”

  1. timb12 - Jun 29, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    SVG is the man. I enjoy how honest he is.

    • skyhighmike08 - Jun 29, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      so is his brother JVG…..the guy the article is about.

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 29, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      Dude, this is about Jeff not Stan, you got your Van Gundy’s confused.

      • jcmeyer10 - Jun 29, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        That’s an impressive feat considering what they look like.

  2. fanofevilempire - Jun 29, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    Nice job Jeff, still got ya back in NYC.

    • hehateme2 - Jun 30, 2013 at 7:29 AM

      The knicks franchise will kill you. Heart, body and soul. You did the right thing Jeff. Didn’t miss much.

  3. patrick10311211 - Jun 29, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    I’ve always been a fan of Doc going back to his playing days but he definitely quit on the Celtics. Anyone who watched the Danny Ainge press conference could tell that was the case. Doc held it over their heads that he could just go do tv and make money so compared to losing him for nothing it was beneficial to the Celtics to trade him to the Clippers. As for Van Gundy, he is annoying as can be. He was an overrated coach and he’s an overrated analyst. He’s the Skip Bayless of the NBA, always squawking some self-serving nonsense at a high volume. He’s just trying to spin the story to make his buddy Doc look good.

    • Kurt Helin - Jun 29, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      Doc was under contract. He could have walked away but he did not go to the Clippers without Celtics approval. And by quotes from Doc and the owner, they had plans for him to come back. This was mutual.

  4. timb12 - Jun 29, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    Dang. I meant Jeff. He’s still the man though.

  5. ncm42 - Jun 29, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    All the people vilifying Doc will similarly protest when a coach is fired mid-season, I’m sure.

  6. timb12 - Jun 29, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    I wrote the wrong letter! Dang. I’m embarrassed. But I did mean Jeff, not Stan.

  7. slowclyde86 - Jun 29, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    I see your point, but in your example, the coach still gets paid. Simmons point is that rivers made it clear he was not going to coach a rebuilding team even though his contract ran three more years.

    • musician0785 - Jun 29, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      Simmons is a tool

  8. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 29, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    JVG took time from saying saying that LeBron’s getting treated like Foster in the accused should be a no-call, to give this interview.

  9. badintent - Jun 29, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    JVG is a whining little man who let his huge self ego take him out of a dream job. He says he was frustrated. Knick fans were frustrated with him not taking the team further in the playoffs.His stunt of grabbing Mourning ‘s ankle was the NBA poster boy of coaches going bad. Clown JVG. Not half the man his brother is , as a coach or a man. I’m sorry Mark Jackson left for the NBA , but I understand , just don’t know why it took so long to leave listening to JVG complaining about every foul.Pathetic

  10. sportsnut101 - Jun 29, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    Jvg was average coach. His brother is better coach Jvg is better as announcer I hate when I hear oh Jvg is top choice really he hasn’t coached in yrs n he’s best for the job please man

    Jvg n doc both quit.

    Rivers quit. He was either gonna take break from coaching or force a trade which he did behind closed doors. Awww he needed a break cuz he didn’t get past first rd. I agree with bill simmons

  11. condor75 - Jun 30, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    People change jobs all the time, what the heck is the big deal

  12. NotoriousKDV - Jun 30, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    Of course Doc quit. When he signed that 5 year extension, he knew, with how old KG, Pierce and Allen would be in the 3rd, 4th and 5th years of that deal(remember Allen was still on the team at the time he signed that extension). So he knew that there was a chance that at some point during his contract, that Boston could very well go into rebuilding mode. Yet he chose to sign a 5 year extension instead of say a 3 year extension. I mean you really think that Ainge and ownership didn’t have a talk with Doc before he signed that extension about how Doc would feel if they did decide to rebuild in 3 or 4 years? Of course they did.

    Doc quit because he knew that after a first round exit this year that the window for a championship had closed. He even said at one point during his press conference with the Clippers that at this point in his career he only cares about championships. He couldn’t have told Boston that when they were negotiating his extension?

    He’s not the first coach that’s quit on a team and he won’t be the last and this certainly isn’t the worst case of a coach quitting on a team but it’s still quitting. And I’m sure somewhere down the road, Doc will admit that he quit. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he quits on the Clippers once he realizes that Blake’s overrated, Jordan’s a bum and all they really have going for them is CP3.

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