Old enemies at it again
Jackson, Van Gundy prepare to match wits on Sunday
Posted: Saturday February 12, 2000 06:05 PM
SubWire| Subhead| Contributors| RelSite| RelStory| Meta| Image| Table|
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Phil Jackson still harbors some of his disdain for Jeff Van Gundy rooted in the days of the fierce Bulls-Knicks rivalry.
Van Gundy still thinks Jackson gets a free pass from the media.
One is tall, one is short. One a maverick, the other a workaholic. One was a hippie, the other a gym rat.
Neither has a particular affinity for the other.
Jackson and Van Gundy, the opposing coaches in the NBA All-Star game Sunday, provide an interesting side story to an annual event where the focus usually is on the players while the coaches just try to keep everyone happy.
This year, there's genuine animosity between the two men pacing the sideline.
"I don't even pay attention to him. He's like a fly on the wall," Jackson said of Van Gundy, with whom he has never had a conversation.
Jackson said his only images of Van Gundy are from when he came "out of the fray" in the Derek Harper-Jo Jo English fight in the 1994 playoffs, and when he grabbed Alonzo Mourning's leg during a fight in the 1998 playoffs.
Told of Jackson's comments, Van Gundy disputed the details of the Harper-English fight.
"He's got the wrong guy, but that doesn't surprise me. That was Pat pulling guys out," Van Gundy said of coach Pat Riley. "You guys have given him a pass for a long time. I would suspect you'd do it again."
The days of Jackson's Bulls always seeming to beat the Knicks, whether led by Riley or Van Gundy, are in the past.
Jackson, after a season away from the NBA, has resurfaced in Los Angeles with the Lakers. Last spring, he met secretly with Knicks president Dave Checketts when Van Gundy's team was underachieving and Checketts was contemplating a housecleaning.
Van Gundy saved his job by leading the Knicks to the NBA Finals, and Jackson settled for the task of trying to coax some cohesion and success out of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers.
Jackson's team had the best record in the league for the better part of this season, although they have fallen behind the Portland Trail Blazers entering the All-Star break.
Van Gundy, whose first victory as a head coach came against Jackson's 1995-96 Bulls -- who won 72 regular-season games -- got the job in the East over Riley. New York didn't have the best record, but Van Gundy won a tiebreaker.
Jackson and Van Gundy have not opposed each other as coaches since 1998 -- a lull that has quieted the rivalry, at least until now.
"That's all in the past for me, at least from my standpoint," Van Gundy said. "That was borne out of playing each other a lot, including the playoffs, and there was a rivalry.
"But that's all by the wayside because now he's in a different place and a different conference."
Jackson, who played for the Knicks from 1967-78, can laud Van Gundy's coaching abilities, although the praise often is accompanied by a putdown.
During the heyday of the Knicks-Bulls rivalry, Jackson often complained to the referees that Van Gundy was straying away from the sideline and onto the court.
Van Gundy's most famous sprint came when he latched himself onto Mourning's leg while trying to break up a fight between the Miami center and Larry Johnson.
"Coaches should not be on the court," Jackson said. "But the little coaches they let run on the court because they don't see them."
There goes another shot from the 6-foot-8 Jackson at the 5-foot-9 Van Gundy.
"That's what he has to say, I have no reaction," said Van Gundy, who has been annoyed in the past when people have criticized his looks.
His appearance, once compared with a mortician's, became an issue last season when the dark circles under his eyes seemed even more prominent as the Knicks struggled and questions arose about his job security.
Jackson once referred to him as "Gumby."
Van Gundy, needling Jackson for his interests in American Indian culture, meditation and Zen philosophy, came up with this nickname for Jackson in 1996: "Big Chief Triangle."
Van Gundy has changed a great deal since then. Back in those days, shortly after he had the "interim" removed from his job title, Van Gundy was much more inclined to speak freely. He once called Michael Jordan a con man, an opinion other coaches shared but were hesitant to express.
The Knicks and Van Gundy were knocked out in the second round of the playoffs three straight years before making it to the finals last season.
The ascension to All-Star coach marks the next step forward in his NBA career, which he began with the Knicks in 1989 as a 27-year-old assistant.
"He's a fighter, he's aggressive, he's on the court, he's manipulating his players into doing a lot of defensive things," Jackson said. "I think he gained the respect of his team last year by the effort he put in."
Jackson, who won six NBA titles with the Bulls, is making his third appearance as an All-Star coach.
"I've always had a lot of respect and admiration for his coaching abilities," Van Gundy said. "He's a terrific coach."
Just don't expect them to hug after the game.