Former NBA coach and current ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy is one of the funniest people around the league. He’s hugged Spurs coach Gregg Popovich mid-interview and delivered countless memorable rants, including one about the DH in baseball.
Van Gundy is celebrating his 54th birthday on Tuesday, which gives us the chance to share our all-time favorite story of his.
On May 18, 2000, the New York Knicks were arriving at Westchester County Airport in New York after an 87–81 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Down 3–2 in the series, things were already going south for Van Gundy.
Whereas parking lots close to the runway are not typically a problem for sports teams since most team members drive substantial vehicles like SUV’s (2.7 tons), Van Gundy was always known for his frugality, especially when it came to automobiles. As the team’s charter flight landed and taxied on the runway, a blast from the engine propulsion literally lifted his little 1995 Honda Civic (around 2,300 pounds) off the ground and sent it flying into the air, totally destroying it and three other cars, including Allan Houston’s 1997 Mercedes.
From The New York Times:
“It was compacted,” Van Gundy said yesterday afternoon. “The windshield was totally blown out along with the rest of the windows. It’s just a car.” ... Van Gundy telephoned his wife, Kim, at about 3:30 a.m. She answered groggy, unsure of what she was hearing. He gave her the details quickly and told her he would sleep in his office and see her in the morning.
Here is the coach of the New York Knicks — one of the most prominent teams in basketball — driving a ‘95 Civic! It was such a cheap car, it was actually thrown into the air.
What a rough night, too. From instructing professional athletes in a nationally-televised game in beautiful Miami to being without a car and sleeping in your office.
He has since moved up to a Toyota Camry. Never change, Jeff. Happy Birthday.