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Growing up NBA

For Detroit Mercy history major Michael Van Gundy - son of the Pistons coach and nephew of the ESPN commentator - basketball has always been part of life

By ISAIAH JONES / VN STAFF WRITER
On March 28, 2017

If you’re a basketball fan, the name Van Gundy may make you think of Stan and Jeff Van Gundy, the brothers who are NBA personalities.

But Detroit Mercy has its own Van Gundy – Michael, the son of Pistons head coach Stan and ESPN commentator Jeff.

Michael Van Gundy has been around NBA games his entire life and has met a lot of professional athletes and famous people in his lifetime.

“It’s pretty cool being able to be close to the NBA but at the same time it’s what I’ve known my whole life so it seems normal at this point,” he said.

His dad was already an assistant coach to Pat Riley with the Miami Heat when Michael was born. He became head in 2003, serving into 2005. He led the Orlando Magic from 2007 to 2012, and came to Detroit in 2014.

“As far as famous people, the ones that stick out to me are Dwayne Wade and Shaq, who were both coached by my dad,” said Michael.

Both stars played for Van Gundy in Miami.

Beyond the celebrity encounters, there are many benefits to having a father as an NBA coach.

“The pros of having my dad be an NBA coach are probably the access I have to the game and the insight he can give me as I try and learn the game more and more,” said Michael. “It is a blessing to be able to be able to learn the game of basketball at the level I am because maybe one day I can be a coach.”

Michael’s dad led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009, where they fell short to the Los Angeles Lakers.

This was when the Magic had Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard and together they had the reached the second finals in franchise history.

Michael Van Gundy remembers it well.

“That experience was unbelievable because I was able to watch great players like Dwight and Jameer perform and I had front-row access,” he. “I may not have liked the results but at the same time I will never forget that atmosphere and I hope to be back in it someday.”

But there are downsides, too.

“It’s tough having to see the criticisms people have of my dad, especially when I was younger,” said Van Gundy. “It was tough seeing my uncle get criticized too because he was not deserving of it. I learned that it all came with being in that field of work.”

His Uncle Jeff coached the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets before becoming a sports analyst.

In his first full season, the Knicks tied for the third-best record in franchise history at 57–25.

Jeff Van Gundy coached Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.

“My uncle was coaching in the NBA before I was born and my dad started coaching in the NBA as an assistant before I was even a year old,” said Michael.

The Van Gundy brothers faced each other on many occasions.

“Those were the most awkward but exciting games to watch when my dad and uncle coached against each other. It was just arguing back and forth,” he said. “It was competitive and it was all in fun and at the end of the day we are family and we all support each other.”

At Detroit Mercy, Michael Van Gundy is a history major. He also serves as student manager of the lacrosse team.

“Life is great when I know I have a family that supports me and does not pressure me to be a coach and lets me make my own decisions,” he said.

Still, he does carry on the family interest in basketball.

“Since I was young, I have always thought about being a coach because it’s what I have been around most of my life,” he said. “My dad and uncle are both inspirations to me.”

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