Last week I got the opportunity, thanks to bobrek
and Matt Jackson of 790
), to have lunch with Jeff Van Gundy at LA Bar on Richmond. An absolute blast. He is hilarious... he seriously had me in tears laughing a few times. Just a great story-teller and is very open and candid. Actually because of that, I wasn't sure what I should pass along so this is a little late -- there were several interesting things said that I think are best left there.
This didn't have anything to do with this lunch, but I think it's the right thing to mention -- JVG is a big supporter of Pro-Vision
, a school that helps give a second chance to students who are two grade levels behind. They are hosting an NFL Draft Party this Thursday for charity and Matt Jackson is hosting it:
2012 NFL Draft Party
If you'd like to help them out and have the means, check out their site and consider coming to the party this week.
As for the lunch, I did follow the "rockHEAD Rule" and asked JVG if I could take a photo:
JVG definitely knows ClutchFans, had some questions about how we were doing, etc. He cited things that were on the board back when he was the coach -- I didn't remember this, but he said he recalled something on CF about him not letting Vassilis Spanoulis visit his mother (which wasn't true since his mother lived here in Houston).
The V-Span stuff was great... he cracked that he probably would have played him more if if he wouldn't skip bounce passes past Yao Ming and then look at Yao like he was crazy. He joked about ClutchFans, "Give me grief about something, but not Spanoulis."
He did think Spanoulis should have stuck with it in the NBA. He thought he was a great kid who worked hard and said it took 6 years for Steve Novak to finally get a chance.
That led into Novak, who had hit 8-10 threes the night before. JVG says when Novak shoots and misses, his first question is "why did he miss that?" He's just so good from distance.
He also told a great story about Novak. The first training camp for Novak, they went down to UT. The Rockets had lost their advanced scout, so they hired a new one. So he was there with all of their assistants, analyzing the players. So after training camp, he goes back and sends JVG an email entitled:
"This is what Novak needs to do to improve his shooting"
It lists like 3 or 4 things. JVG looks at it and he puts it up on the board. Then he writes: "Anyone who f***s with Novak's shot will be fired."
So then he goes up to Novak and says, "Listen, if one of us comes up to you and says anything to you about your shooting, you have the right from me to say "**** you." BUT, if they say anything else to you about any other aspect of your game, open your ears."
He said that stayed on his board/door all year.
We ran through many of his players asking "where are they now?" Luther Head, David Wesley, Bobby Sura, Ryan Bowen, Mo Taylor, Moochie Norris.
He ran into Luther not that long ago.... surprised him. Many have lost touch with him. He stays in touch with Sura -- they have lunch fairly regularly.
One of JVG's rules when he was coach was if you were overweight, you ran a stationary bike. Conditioning was huge under JVG. He liked Mo Taylor, thought he was a funny guy ... but he was a player who JVG constantly had to ride to get in better shape, so he was regularly on the bike and having to report in. He ran into Mo Taylor a few months ago at a movie theater -- said Mo was in excellent shape. He got a kick out of the fact that as soon as Mo saw him, he immediately reported to JVG his weight and body fat percentage.
He loved Kelvin Cato ... raved about him a couple of times. Just loved coaching him.
He said the Steve Francis-Jeff Van Gundy Super Bowl thing was overblown, BUT he had to let off some steam. After it happened, Francis showed up to practice and JVG threw a basketball at him. Then he started throwing several Dodgeball-style and Steve started firing them back. He said it felt so much better after pelting him and he was sure Francis felt the same way.
Told a great story about when it wasn't working out starting Clarence Weatherspoon in the 2005 playoffs vs. Dallas. He went to tell Ryan Bowen that he was starting him and that he was going to be guarding Dirk Nowitzki. Bowen was like WTF... I'm starting
... a PLAYOFF game?
He is very proud and happy for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who was an assistant under JVG here in Houston. I remember after they let JVG go that he had commented that the Rockets should be giving Tom a strong look, but JVG didn't take any credit -- said when you have a chance to hire a guy like Rick Adelman it's a "no-brainer" ... that "if you have someone that good, you're not going to take a chance on somebody else."
After they traded Moochie Norris, who wasn't playing at all and was quite overpaid, they had a meeting to discuss something about the team. Thibodeau asks seriously, 'How are we going to replace Moochie?" JVG said he would take his job, then illustrated it, holding up his hand in a huddle: "Bring it in. 1-2-3, ROCKETS!"
I asked him if he was going to do the draft this year -- said he hoped not. He laughed and said after you get past like 12 guys, it gets difficult. He said: "They said 'Iman Shumpert' last year. My brother texted me, 'You don't know one thing
about Iman Shumpert.' He's right. I thought he was like a religious leader."
He remembered back at Rockets training camp in Austin when Kevin Durant, then with the Longhorns, was there. He said Durant was there before the Rockets arrived, during the time they were there, when they left, when they got back and when they shut it down. He was either playing or working out. He said he had no idea if KD ever went to class because he must have been at the gym 14 hours a day.
Any JVG Twitter account out there is a fake -- he doesn't use Twitter. In fact, he pulled out his cell phone to show me. It was a flip phone
He thinks the NBA would do well in Vegas. He actually thinks Chicago could have two teams, similar to New York and Los Angeles.
This lunch was a GREAT time... I hope I get the chance talk with him again sometime in the future. I have tremendous respect for him and in a selfish way I hope he stays as the best broadcaster/analyst in the game (rather than return to coaching) just so we keep him here in Houston.