Childhood & Early Life
Jeff Van Gundy was born Jeffrey William Van Gundy, on January 19, 1962, in Hemet, California, to Bill and Cindy Van Gundy. He was born as the younger among the two boys and grew up playing basketball with an older brother named Stan. Stan also went on forging a career in basketball coaching.
Both Jeff and Stan looked up to their father Bill who was a basketball coach who had served as the head coach of Genesee Community College and Brockport State University. Needless to say, both Jeff and Stan grew up playing basketball.
This love for the game further grew in Jeff while he was growing up in Martinez, California. Jeff was initially trained by his father and he played with his school’s teams which further honed his skills as a competitive basketball player.
Before Jeff enrolled into high school, the family had moved to Brockport, New York. There Jeff attended Brockport High School. He was a highly competitive player in school and remained a point guard. Despite his below average height by the basketball standards, he emerged as a fairly strong player.
He was named twice theAll Greater Rochester Selection in 1979 and 1980. He also played a huge role in bringing the Rockport Central in the Class AA Finals. Following his high school graduation, he attended the Nazareth College and earned All-American honors while playing for his college team called the Golden Flyers.
He also played a decisive role in leading his team to an NCAA Division III Tournament berth. He set a college record of free throw percentage, with 86.8%.
He later attended the Yale University, where he was classmates with popular American actress Jodie Foster. He eventually attended Menlo College and finally graduated in 1985 from the Nazareth College.
Following his graduation from the college, he did not opt for a career as a player; he instead went out looking for a coaching career. He began coaching New York’s McQuaid Jesuit High School as a head coach. He worked there for a year, before he took a position as a graduate assistant at the Providence College, where he worked under the head coach Rick Pitino.
The team named Providence Friars was considered a below average team and under the mentorship of Rick, the team advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Division I. In his second season, he was promoted to the position of assistant coach under Gordon Chiesa. In the next season, he joined the Rutgers University where he worked as an assistant coach under Bob Wenzel.
In the late 1980s, he began his NBA career, working under the head coach Stu Jackson in the team New York Knicks. He was an assistant coach and in the next few seasons, he remained an assistant coach under the head coaches John Macleod, Pat Riley and Don Nelson.
While he worked as an AC with the team, Knicks ended up winning Atlantic Division titles thrice. The team further qualified for the playoffs each year and never ended up on a position below three in the Atlantic Division tournaments. Further in 1993, the team reached the finals of the Eastern Conference and in the next year, Knicks made it to the NBA finals.
In 1996, when the coach Don Nelson left, Jeff took the ruins of the team and became the head coach of the Knicks. He led his team to the semi-finals of Eastern Conference tournament in 1998.
By the end of his first season with his team, he led his team to a record of 57-25, which was team’s third best performance in the franchise history.
The 1998-99 season was shortened due to a lockout and each team was subjected to play fewer games. But in that short season, New York Knicks suffered a lot of injuries and hence, the overall performance of the team was badly affected. They scored wins with a record of 27-23 and were positioned at the eighth place in the playoffs.
Despite that, the team made a solid comeback and ended up reaching the NBA Finals. It was the first time in history of NBA that an eighth seeded team had reached the finals. The team’s final score was (6)50-32 by the end of the season and it was considered one of the greatest comebacks in franchise’s history.
The team kept performing greatly in the 2001-02 season as well. The team had played 19 games into the season when they received a shocker. Jeff resigned from the team.
In 2003, he went on joining Houston Rockets as their head coach. Under his tenure, the team qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 5 years and ended the season with a score of 45-37. However, they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
In his second season, Jeff further led the team to the playoffs and the team ended up exiting in the first round again. But he led the team to more than 50 wins in the season, which was a first for Houston in five years.
The team began suffering from injuries and bad performances. As a consequence, Jeff was fired in 2007.
He then went on working as a commentator and game analyst on ESPN.
In 2017, he was offered a position as the head coach of the senior USA basketball team. He led his team to a gold medal in the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup.