Jeff Van Gundy is a national treasure. It’s hard not to love a guy who’s tiny and has very little hair and yet fits perfectly into the world of NBA basketball on TV. But Van Gundy is much more than a funny color man. Let’s take a look back at the illustrious career of a true pioneer so we can wholly appreciate the greatness that is the notorious JVG.
10. He Named His Cat Cheeks
Van Gundy was so enamored with the play of point guard Maurice Cheeks that when he coached him, he named his cat Cheeks. The cat died 18 years later on a day Van Gundy described as, “sad.”
9. His Car Was Once Destroyed By His Team’s Charter Plane
In 2000, after a particularly tough playoff loss to the arch-rival Miami Heat, the Knicks’ charter plane let out a jet blast that destroyed Van Gundy’s car. It was a 1995 Honda Civic and it was “totally demolished” according to police reports. Van Gundy got a ride to the team’s practice facility before spending the night on his office couch.
Quick recap on some details from that story: ’95 Honda Civic. Office couch. “Totally demolished.”
He would later say the way the car was lost was “tragic.”
8. He Will Drink You Under The Table…As Long As That Drink Is Diet Coke
His workaholic tendencies led to long hours at the office. To keep from getting drowsy on the job, JVG worked himself up to a six-pack a day habit in the prime of his coaching career. Coach claims he’s down to only four cans a day now that he’s out of the league.
7. He’s This Man’s Brother
And he’s never been shy about expressing how his brother got screwed out of a job thanks to Dwight Howard. His rants on the subject are some of the most entertaining and honest monologues you’ll find in sports TV.
6. He Likes To Break Up Fights Between Gigantic Human Beings
They play this clip just about every time the Knicks play the Heat, so we don’t need to recap what happened that fateful night in 1998. Just know that Van Gundy saw the 6’10” Alonzo Mourning going at it with the 6’6″ Larry Johnson and figured he was the right man to break things up.
5. Seriously, He Really Likes To Mix It Up With the Big Boys
During a Martin Luther King Day matinee between the Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs in 2001, Marcus Camby got fed up with Danny Ferry and threw a windmill at the Spurs forward. Camby missed Ferry but Van Gundy was right in the middle and took the brunt of Camby’s wild punch. He got more than 10 stitches and a bloody face for his troubles. (Hopefully the lesson is learned by now.)
4. He Looks Awesome In A Construction Helmet
If he ever gets back into coaching again, I highly recommend he wears one of these the next time he tries to break up a fight.
3. He Almost Dated Jodie Foster At Yale
Well, he almost asked her out. Once. On a dare. For money. But he didn’t. Legend has it that Van Gundy and 12 of his closet buddies threw $100 a person into a pool to ask the future Oscar winner out but none of them could muster up the courage.
2. Speaking of Yale, Jeff Van Gundy Does Not Need Yale
This man loves basketball so much he transferred from Yale, where he was cut from the basketball team as a freshman, to Menlo Junior College. (We’ve never heard of it either.) He transferred two more times before making the 1984 Division III NCAA Eastern Regional Championship with Nazareth College in Rochester, NY.
1. He Came Up With The Best Nickname for Phil Jackson Ever
Back in the day when the Knicks and Bulls battled just about every year in the playoffs, Phil Jackson got under Van Gundy’s skin with some comments to the press. Van Gundy fired back by calling Phil Jackson “Big Chief Triangle,” which is probably the most enjoyably immature coach-to-coach name calling that has ever taken place in the media.