ORLANDO, Fla. — How's this for a tame twist in the Sunshine State rivalry: Orlando's Stan Van Gundy is coming to the defense of Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
A day after Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Spoelstra's job could be in jeopardy if the Heat don't start winning soon, Van Gundy on Wednesday called those comments "inappropriate" and "ignorant."
Jackson had told a Chicago radio station that Miami's struggles could lead to Heat President Pat Riley taking over on the sideline and it "could be the Van Gundy thing all over again."
The Magic coach has never appreciated speculation about him leaving Miami.
"First of all, Phil has no idea what the 'Van Gundy Situation' was. Even though he coaches in our league, he certainly has no inside knowledge of that," Van Gundy said hours before the Magic hosted the Heat. "So an analogy that he would make to my situation would be totally useless because he doesn't have any clue what the situation was in that case."
Van Gundy dealt with similar speculation in 2005 after Riley said earlier that summer he wanted to "take a little bit more of an active participation" with the Heat. That began a firestorm of conjecture that Riley would come back to the bench and replace Van Gundy as coach.
Van Gundy later resigned as Heat coach 21 games into the season, citing personal and family reasons. Riley took over, leading the Heat to their first championship.
Van Gundy also remains friends with Spoelstra, an assistant on his staff in Miami. Spoelstra, for his part, didn't take Jackson's comments personal.
Spoelstra said his assistant coaches playfully teased him about Jackson's comments on the bus ride to the Heat's morning shootaround, and even he had a chuckle over the comparison to Van Gundy.
"I'm single, so I don't anticipate I'll be taking a leave with the team to spend time with my family," Spoelstra joked.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade was more upset with the messenger than the message.
"The only thing surprising about it is a coach saying it about another coach in this league," Wade said of Jackson, who has a record 11 NBA titles as coach. "I expect that from someone else to say it, but not another coach. It's unfortunate. But I guess coach Jackson has earned the right to say what he wants, and he continues to exercise that right."
Jackson was on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on WMVP-AM radio in Chicago on Tuesday.
Asked about the Heat's 8-6 start, Jackson responded that the Heat better start winning soon or the Heat's collection of All-Stars might become frustrated with the team's progress and ask Riley to step in.
"The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited — (Chris) Bosh and James — by Pat Riley and Micky Arison, the owner, are going to come in and say, 'We feel (Riley) can do a better job coaching the team. We came here on the hopes that this would work,' and whatever, I don't know," Jackson said. "That's kind of my take on it, is that eventually if things don't straighten out here soon, it could be the Van Gundy thing all over again."
Van Gundy was baffled that another NBA coach would speculate about another coach's job.
"To second guess another coach and comment on a situation he knows nothing about, I think, it's inappropriate and it's also ignorant," Van Gundy said. "I don't mean that commenting on Phil's intelligence, he's obviously a very smart guy. I mean it as ignorant — he doesn't know what that situation was and he doesn't know what that situation in Miami is now.
"I don't think that, unless their relationship's changed drastically, that he and Pat talk on a regular basis. So I doubt he would have any insight ever on what's going on in Miami."
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