Jeff Van Gundy is well known for being a voice of reason on ESPN’s coverage of the NBA, but in a recent and rare interview he blasts the network for not giving fans the whole truth when it comes to their coverage of the sport. In talking to USA Today, Van Gundy implied that the network is afraid of David Stern and is being controlled by his totalitarian ways.
“This is an organization that’s treated me great. But this raises interesting questions about what a [league-network] partnership means. You have to realize, as a fan, you’re not getting the whole truth.”
Van Gundy compared ESPN’s softball coverage of the NBA to the networks often harsh critiques of the NFL when it comes to their issues, such as the recent referee lockout.
“It seems like there are certain people in each sport that [TV] can’t criticize, or you can’t criticize the league itself. That’s what impressed me when [ESPN's] Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden criticized the NFL over replacement refs. That [Commissioner] Roger Goodell didn’t throw a hissy fit at ESPN was impressive.”
The matter of ESPN and the NBA became personal when the network implied it was going to hire Jeff’s brother Stan Van Gundy but then reneged on the deal. Jeff believes that the network’s reason for pulling out of the deal revolved around Stan’s blunt feelings towards the NBA and it’s commissioner David Stern.
“There’s certainly circumstantial evidence that something from the outside — presumably the NBA — changed (ESPN’s) thinking. … I was happy when they came to an agreement and shocked when they pulled their offer.”
Stan Van Gundy was publicly run out of town by the Dwight Howard circus, and has been a harsh critic of the NBA and the way it’s governed since he came into the league. ESPN claims they decided to go in another direction before offering Stan a contract, but in a radio interview, the ex-coach says that’s all a sick lie.
“That’s a bunch of BS from ESPN.” Stan said on the Dan LeBetard Show. “We actually did agree on a role, but they came back and pulled it.”
The NBA isn’t one to shy away from criticism. There has long been numerous beefs fans and analysts alike have had with Stern and his rule and fans have equally been suspect of ESPN. The four letter network routinely doesn’t give credit to it’s sources, and often is caught just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks (see: Chris Broussard’s existence).
So maybe it’s fitting and right that the NBA and ESPN are apparently seductively whispering into each other’s ears high atop their empirical mountains.