Stan Van Gundy has agreed to a multiyear deal to become the next head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
The Pelicans and Van Gundy’s representative, Brian Elfus, reached agreement on terms Wednesday morning, according to sources.
As New Orleans’ front office navigated the coaching search, Van Gundy’s reputation as a teacher of the game in his 11-plus seasons as an NBA head coach stood out — teaching that will become key as New Orleans attempts to make the leap with a young roster.
Van Gundy’s teams also have always stood out on the defensive end. In the 11 seasons he finished as a head coach, Van Gundy’s teams were in the top half in the NBA in defensive rating 10 times — including his last three seasons in Detroit. His teams finished top 10 in defensive rating eight of those seasons.
His four seasons in Detroit included a dual title as president and coach, and personnel decisions — particularly in the NBA draft — played a role in limiting the team’s success. Still, Van Gundy did elevate the Pistons out of several years in the lottery to the playoffs in 2016 with 44 victories.
Van Gundy, 61, has a 523-384 (.577) regular-season record and 48-43 (.527) playoff record in the NBA. He led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals.
Van Gundy inherits a Pelicans squad that underachieved during the NBA restart after having the easiest path, schedule-wise, to make the playoffs. Instead, New Orleans finished 13th in the Western Conference after going 2-6 in Orlando.
However, the future does appear bright for the young Pelicans.
That core features last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Zion Williamson, as well as last season’s Most Improved Player, Brandon Ingram. It also includes 2019 lottery pick Jaxson Hayes and the 2019 No. 17 pick, Nickeil Alexander-Walker. New Orleans could opt to extend guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart once the league year starts; both of them took steps forward in their development last season.
New Orleans also has the No. 13 pick in the upcoming 2020 draft as well as three second-round picks (No. 39, 43 and 60). That’s only the beginning of the Pelicans’ future draft assets. They still own the Los Angeles Lakers‘ picks in either 2021 (protected 8-30) or 2022 (unprotected), 2023 (pick swap) and either 2024 or 2025, with New Orleans able to defer a 2024 pick swap one year.
Van Gundy will be expected to help guide the young Pelicans through their growing pains and into the playoffs. New Orleans has made the playoffs in only two of the past nine seasons with only a single series win — a first-round sweep of Portland in the 2018 playoffs.
The lack of success caused Anthony Davis to force his way out of town to the Lakers prior to last season, but it did allow New Orleans to accelerate its rebuild with the haul it received — a haul that David Griffin, the Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations, said will help get New Orleans over the hump.