Jeff Van Gundy had opinions because, of course, he did. This was late last month, on the eve of the NBA Finals, and when I chatted with Van Gundy for an interesting conversation, a number of things came to light. One that got a lot of attention was Van Gundy saying he would eliminate free throws until the final four minutes as a way to speed up NBA games due to the success of Major League Baseball with its new time-saving rules. He announced that he would also spend the first half.
“I think the half-time break is the biggest waste of time,” Van Gundy said with a laugh. “Or I’ll cut it down to five minutes so you can go to the bathroom and come back outside.”
When the topic was brought up that the Heat-Nuggets would be their 17th NBA Finals as an analyst called the most NBA Finals of any television analyst in history, he introspected.
“She’s catching up to you really fast,” said Van Gundy. “What started as a kind of way station due to some family stuff and kids and all that in between training breaks has now turned into this minor career. Sometimes you have to be eternally grateful for the opportunity. (play-by-play voice) Mike Breen took me on and ( Co-commentator) Mark Jackson has been a long time, and I’ve had the same manager at (Vice President of Production) Tim Corrigan all along. You’re surrounded by friends, and you get to play games with people who are great at their jobs. But for me, that didn’t really matter as much as I needed to. I only needed a job and I needed to be where I had the flexibility.You also know it’s hard in this profession to keep a job.Change happens all the time in every sport.You have to be grateful for what you have in that moment because it can change at any time.In At some point, it’s going to change for me. So I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”
The change came long before he expected it. On Friday morning, Van Gundy was informed by ESPN management that he was being let go even though there was time in his contract. confirmed the news to the athlete; New York Post The first was with the report. He didn’t see it coming, nor did the millions of basketball viewers who have seen it over the years.
Van Gundy is part of a round of layoffs that will include well-known names across ESPN, including NFL employees. I’ve already seen Beloved news anchor Neil Everett and NHL analyst Chris Chelios. NBA analyst Jalen Rose is also a part of the layoffs, the athlete Certain. More names will be announced, about 20 for front-end talent, including from the NFL pool.
“Given the current environment, ESPN has determined that it is necessary to identify some additional cost savings in the area of public-facing commentator salaries, and has begun that process,” the company said in a statement. This exercise will include a small set of short-term job cuts and a continued focus on cost management as we negotiate individual contract renewals in the coming months. This is a very difficult process, and it involves individuals who have had an enormous impact on our company. These tough decisions, which are based more on overall competence than on merit, will help us achieve our financial goals and ensure future growth.”
Disney has put enormous pressure on ESPN to cut costs, and management’s thinking is that cutting the salaries of high-profile characters by laying off workers or not re-signing talent (which will happen over the next six months) will create many jobs behind the scenes.
You can understand the reasoning, but someone made a decision about Van Gundy, and it was a terrible decision. I will explain why I think so.
ESPN’s NBA game broadcast production has long been considered one of the company’s strongest units. The production is sound, and even if you don’t like Jackson or Van Gundy – I’m not sure how anyone can criticize Brain – you have to respect how they functionally produce the game. It feels great. Where Turner Sports could always brag about “Inside The NBA” on the various versions of ESPN’s pre- and post-game show, ESPN could brag about its NBA production, and a big part of that was Van Gundy, who combined a great view of the game with a sense of humor. Reality and showmanship. He has old saws, like the knocking of umpires, but he has educated people in the game, as Hobey Brown did in his prime.
A possible replacement would come from the group of Doris Burke, JJ Reddick, or a recently fired coach like Doc Rivers. They are all talented broadcasters, and it will be great to see Burke continue to make history as a leading voice in the NBA. But this decision is brutal.
If you’re a Van Gundy fan, I’ll give you good news: The current media rights agreement with ESPN and (Warner Bros. Discovery) expired at the end of the 2024-25 season, and Van Gundy’s contract is timed to the signing of that new deal. The NBA will almost certainly bring a new media partner into its orbit regardless of what happens with the existing ESPN and WBD.
Today, that media company’s calculus has changed: The NBA’s top TV analyst is now a free agent. Go get it when the time is right.
Jeff Van Gundy’s big idea is to shorten the games and more before the 17th NBA Finals
(Photo: Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)