Tracy McGrady to play for Qingdao Eagles in China; some thoughts on Jeff Van Gundy

The former franchise savior in a heartfelt post on his own personal Facebook page announced the news that he will be leaving the NBA, at least for now, to play for the Qingdao Eagles in China.  One chunk from that status update stood out:

Isaiah Thomas, Rich Devos, Leslie Alexander and John Gabriel, you believed in me and I thank you. Jeff Van Gundy, you exemplified the brilliance of what a great coach is. Steven A. Smith, you gave us players a voice and for that I thank you. Doug Christy, Charles Oakley, Dee Brown, Mugsy Bogues, Antonio Davis, Dell Curry, Kevin Willis, you all showed a young kid from Auburndale Florida how to be a better player. Kobe, you made me work harder and it was an honor to play against you. And Yao, we shared an experience together that will always be with me, thank you.

The Stephen A. Smith dynamics were interesting because I can’t recall another athlete, at least in this sport, outright showing appreciation to a media figure for serving as an outlet to the public.  But what hit home more was the mention of Jeff Van Gundy, the only such mention in the post of a former coach.

We’ve heard Van Gundy rave about McGrady’s talents over the years on national broadcasts, even recently going so far as to say that T-Mac was the closest thing he had ever seen to a perfect body and a good mind.  Until now, we didn’t know if the appreciation was mutual.

I’ve contested that Jeff Van Gundy was the best coach this team has had in the now-close-to-20-years I’ve been following it.  I felt this way because, despite his reputation as an authoritarian, Jeff was a realist.  He knew how to get through to people in unconventional manners.  His communication skills are precisely why Kelvin Cato and Cuttino Mobley enjoyed career years under his tutelage.

The thing about Jeff, like any good teacher, was that he knew what buttons to push and that not everyone can and should be dealt with the same.  Guys like McGrady and Kelvin Cato needed to be handled delicately, in McGrady’s case because he was a diva and in Cato’s case because he lacked drive and self esteem.  You never heard Jeff even remotely disparage either of these players in the media.  On the contrary, he asked of more from Yao in his public statements because he knew Yao could take it.  Yao didn’t break at criticism.

One might contest that Van Gundy ruined Francis’ career.  I’d strongly disagree.  With the leash Rudy T. had given him from the start, I’d argue that the damage had already been done.  No one before Jeff had ever held Francis accountable.

My greater point though is that I think there’s a lesson to be learned here.  Van Gundy got the most out of McGrady because he understood him.  There were rumors that McGrady was allowed to sit out at practice and his lack of intensity on defense was tolerated.  Why?  Because McGrady was a hall-of-fame level talent at the other end.  It wasn’t worth alienating him simply out of idealist demands.

From what we heard last year, I worry somewhat about Kevin McHale.  He’s old school and seems to want to hold everyone accountable equally.  I think that makes for a great speech but I’m not sure that’s always the best approach.  Everyone has different buttons that need to be pushed.

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Total comments: 9
  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago T-Mac was truly awesome....just bad luck. Having two superstars like we did with flawed bodies, it really was bad luck, but they both gave us good memories (like that game against SA) or those battles against Shaq. Just wish him the best in this money-seeking adventure.
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Dan G, on 11 October 2012 - 06:22 AM said:


    That is true about who is going to remember those scoring titles 20 years from now but I bet Rocket fans will remember that SA ending 60 years from now so I guess T-Mac will always have that to fall back on, and when us Rocket fans tell the tale of that heroic night and some whippersnapper asks us about who T-Mac was we can tell him or her about the scoring titles and how great he was at the time and how he played with the Great Wall.
    I love that game, but when we played dallas in the playoffs is my favorite time watching t-mac. if we could have ever kept him and yao on the court at the same time we could have been special. as for JVG I think he is the best coach we have ever had. he was no nonsense, but still knew how to get max effort from his players and was a great teacher to boot. man.....I wish we could get him back. if we could talk him into taking on the burden of dealing with and teaching young players he would be ideal for the job. problem is I think he is to comfortable at espn. by the way loved him in his commercial with the shooting star. the hair thing had me rolling on the floor laughing :lol:
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago yeah. dont get me wrong, i loved T-Mac (well until the final season or so).
  • Dan G says 1 YEAR ago That is true about who is going to remember those scoring titles 20 years from now but I bet Rocket fans will remember that SA ending 60 years from now so I guess T-Mac will always have that to fall back on, and when us Rocket fans tell the tale of that heroic night and some whippersnapper asks us about who T-Mac was we can tell him or her about the scoring titles and how great he was at the time and how he played with the Great Wall.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    Dan G, on 10 October 2012 - 21:25 PM said:


    Aye that SA game was something special that I still watch from time to time and yes his final season with the Rockets was an ugly soap opera but I have to completely disagree he didn't accomplish anything of real value. Multiple scoring titles, multiple playoff appearances and being one of the top players in the league for at least an eight year stretch are to me big accomplishments. In my opinion you can't judge one's accomplishments by playoff success alone or Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, so far Steve Nash and the all other superstars that haven't won rings "didn't accomplish anything of real value" either. Sure T-Mac never made an Finals appearance but some of that has to do with his supporting cast, injuries and just a run of bad luck.


    ok you make great points but those guys won playoff series' ... t-mac was known for his "teams" playoff failures. be it his fault or not. 20 years from now, whos going to remember those scoring titles?
  • Dan G says 1 YEAR ago

    tombrokeoff, on 10 October 2012 - 20:18 PM said:


    yeah he was a joy to watch and ill never forget that game against SA, but at the end of the day, he didnt accomplish anything of real value and his final days here were an ugly soap opera.


    Aye that SA game was something special that I still watch from time to time and yes his final season with the Rockets was an ugly soap opera but I have to completely disagree he didn't accomplish anything of real value. Multiple scoring titles, multiple playoff appearances and being one of the top players in the league for at least an eight year stretch are to me big accomplishments. In my opinion you can't judge one's accomplishments by playoff success alone or Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, so far Steve Nash and the all other superstars that haven't won rings "didn't accomplish anything of real value" either. Sure T-Mac never made an Finals appearance but some of that has to do with his supporting cast, injuries and just a run of bad luck.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    sircharles, on 10 October 2012 - 18:43 PM said:


    t-mac in his prime was unreal


    yeah he was a joy to watch and ill never forget that game against SA, but at the end of the day, he didnt accomplish anything of real value and his final days here were an ugly soap opera.
  • sircharles says 1 YEAR ago t-mac in his prime was unreal
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago LOVE JVG