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With Clippers job open, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson make their cases — for each other

Former NBA head coaches and current commentators Marc Jackson, left, and Jeff Van Gundy work a Thunder-Rockets playoff game.
Former NBA head coaches and current commentators Marc Jackson, left, and Jeff Van Gundy both believe the other could be a good fit for a team.
(Associated Press)

While providing the soundtrack to the NBA Finals, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson watch the league’s coaching carousel spin with six teams searching for new leaders. The former head coaches have not bought a ticket for the ride. Yet.

“I think coaching is in both of our veins,” Jackson said on a media conference call Thursday with Van Gundy. Both are analysts on ABC’s NBA Finals broadcast. “I know I can speak for myself and say I look forward to the day when I’m coaching again, but I’m having a blast” as an analyst.

When the Clippers and coach Doc Rivers mutually agreed to part ways on Monday, Van Gundy was one of the first candidates brought into the discussion about the vacancy, along with Clippers assistant and former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue.

For his money, Jackson said he would “without a doubt” hire Van Gundy for any opening. When asked about potentially returning to coaching, Van Gundy instead returned the praise to Jackson, whom he coached for one season in Houston.

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“I would say one of the most confounding things that I’ve run into in the NBA is ... how Mark is not being interviewed for every job,” Van Gundy said.

Van Gundy, who led the New York Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1999, hasn’t been on an NBA bench since 2007, when he coached the Rockets to the first round of the playoffs. Jackson coached the Golden State Warriors from 2011 to 2014, taking over a team that had one playoff appearance in its previous 17 years and leading them to two playoff runs in three seasons.

Besides the Clippers, the Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers are searching for new head coaches. Despite the sudden separation from the Clippers after the title contenders were bounced from the NBA playoffs in the Western Conference semifinals, Rivers is still a top name on the coaching market and had conversations with the 76ers on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

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“The entire basketball community was shocked,” Van Gundy said of Rivers’ dismissal. “I think Doc, over his entire caree,r starting in Orlando to Boston to the Clippers, has done a great job leading his team and maximizing their talents, and I think his leadership qualities during this bubble experience really helped show the way and how everybody — teams, players, coaches — could maximize their platform for change. As far as with coaching in the future … he can have his pick of jobs, I’m sure.”


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