Brandon Ingram, Other Pelicans Had ‘Strained’ Relationship With Stan Van Gundy

Star forward Brandon Ingram, point guard Eric Bledsoe and several other players seemed to “tune out” Stan Van Gundy during his first season with the Pelicans, which may have played a role in the team’s decision to part ways with the veteran coach, per Christian Clark of the New Orleans Advocate.Brandon Ingram

Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin made the decision official in announcement Wednesday.

Per Clark, Van Gundy was brought in eight months ago to add some grit to the Pelicans, placing his focus on strategy and toughness over relationships. This appeared to rub some of the Pelicans’ players the wrong way.

That list included Bledsoe, a player who generally received staunch support from Van Gundy despite some uneven play. Van Gundy’s relationship with Ingram was also “strained” for most of the season, Clark reported.

“It’s OK. This is our first year together,” Ingram said of the relationship with Van Gundy back in May, via Clark. “He has a different coaching style that I’m used to seeing from most. But I was able to learn a lot of things from him this year and learn what he’s all about.”

The always intense Van Gundy replaced the laid-back Alvin Gentry and some of the players admitted the change took some adjusting.

“It was definitely different,” guard Josh Hart said, via Clark. “It wasn’t the easiest transition.”

The Pelicans finished 31-41 and failed to make even the play-in tournament. It was a far cry from the expectations in Zion Williamson‘s second season.

Now, as Clark noted, Williamson and Ingram will each be playing for their third coach in three years next season.

Clark added that Griffin may be facing a “make-or-break moment” with his next coaching hire after “whiffing” on Van Gundy, Griffin’s first hire with the Pelicans.

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Van Gundy had been meeting regularly with Griffin, and that a Van Gundy departure had seemed “inevitable” as a result of those discussions.

“I wasn’t happy with the results,” Van Gundy told reporters at the end of the season. “I wasn’t happy with myself on some things basketball-wise. But as far as looking at the job as a whole, it’s even better than I expected and I expected it to be good.”

Van Gundy, 61, has also coached the Heat, Magic and Pistons, compiling a 554-425 record in 13 seasons overall. That included coaching Dwight Howard and the Magic to the 2009 Finals.

Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, Bucks assistant Charles Lee, and Nets assistants Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka could all be under consideration for the New Orleans vacancy, Wojnarowski wrote.

There are currently six NBA coaching vacancies — the Pelicans, Pacers, Celtics, Trail Blazers, Magic and Wizards.

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