ESPN Has “No Balls Whatsoever”: Did Stan Van Gundy Lose Out On A TV Gig Because Of David Stern?
Stan Van Gundy is a man who's not afraid to speak his mind. This is part of the reason he was forced out in Orlando, and part of the reason we were excited to hear he and Bill Simmons might be joining the cast of ESPN's kind-of-bland NBA Countdown show.
But then SVG and ESPN's handshake deal fell through, and we were left wondering why. Certainly, Van Gundy's unique brand of mustachioed blustering would be worth watching, and surely it would liven up ESPN's vanilla offering of NBA pre and post-game shows. After all, there's only so many things Magic Johnson, Michael Wilbon, Chris Broussard and That One Barry Brother can agree on. If you throw Van Gundy in there, suddenly things aren't so comfortable. Or boring.
Which is apparently why the deal fell through. According to the Big Lead, there were whispers that ESPN ended talks with the former Magic coach because of one David Stern. You see, there's a strong possibility David Stern doesn't like Stan Van Gundy, because Van Gundy's been a prickly little prick to deal with over his years in the league. He's criticized Stern's officials, criticized Stern's Christmas scheduling, and, most notably, criticized Stern's dictatorial leadership qualities.
"I certainly can't have an opinion because David Stern, like a lot of leaders we've seen in this world lately, don't really tolerate other people's opinion or free speech or anything. So I'm not really allowed to have an opinion."
The NBA makes about $930 million a year from its current TV deal, and a large portion of that money comes from ESPN/ABC. And you know how ESPN is sometimes put in weird positions with the NFL, a league with which they have a major TV deal? A similar relationship exists between them and the NBA.
[Any] significant hires are discussed – ESPN stopped short of using the word “cleared” – with the NBA. A spokesman said, “As you would expect, there is a constant two-way communication between media and league partners throughout our industry on various issues.”
Which means David Stern could have easily picked up a phone in New York, called an ESPN executive in Bristol, and said "If you hire Van Gundy, I will make your life a living goddamn nightmare."
It doesn't mean he did. But we know David Stern, and it's within the realm of possibility.
So, with his deal dead, and the possibility that Stern played a part in killing it, Van Gundy appeared on Dan Le Batard's radio show in Miami. Here's part of what he said:
"No one at ESPN will tell us what happened. Certainly the NBA office isn’t going to tell us what happened. One of the quotes from ESPN in there – we had discussions, but couldn’t agree on a role … as is usual, that’s a bunch of BS from ESPN.
What I find fascinating … you have to give David Stern and the NBA a lot of credit … ESPN pays the league, and then the league tells them what to do. It’s more ESPN’s problem. You gotta have no balls whatsoever to pay someone hundreds of millions of dollars and let them run your business."
So, according to Van Gundy, ESPN is testicle-less, masochistic sports media enterprise that won't hire someone if David Stern doesn't like them.
The truth, though, is that giving their platform to a man who pretty much compared David Stern to former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi probably wouldn't have been a sound business strategy. Still, we wish ESPN had made the dumber decision -- the ballsier decision -- and hired the wildly entertaining Van Gundy. He would have been great. (See above.)
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