Knicks Legend Thanks Rival For 'Lifeline'

Former New York Knicks Jeff Van Gundy took the time to appreciate the help the Boston Celtics provided.
May 20, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy during game three of the Western Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
May 20, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy during game three of the Western Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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While New York Knicks fans are bracing themselves for another Boston Celtics championship, one of the franchise's modern legends took the time to thank Beantown for its support amidst a trying year.

The Celtics' 3-1 lead in the ongoing NBA Finals has consultant Jeff Van Gundy one win away from his first championship ring, one that can be earned on Monday night when the Dallas Mavericks return to TD Garden (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC). In anticipation of the potential title, the former Knicks head coach appeared on The Mark Jackson Show to look back on an emotional journey that could end with a Larry O'Brien Trophy hoist.

“I got fired from ESPN on June 30, and then my youngest son went to school in August so we became empty nesters," Van Gundy recalled. "Then my sister-in-law tragically passed away in the middle of August as well. Then, my best friend in Houston contracted cancer, and he died this spring."

Van Gundy in 2023
May 20, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy during game three of the Western Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Both Van Gundy and Jackson were part of ESPN's wide-ranging layoffs last summer, which separated one of the most respected broadcasting unions in major professional sports. Some combination of Van Gundy, Jackson, and Mike Breen had held ESPN/ABC's mikes for each of the prior 17 editions of the NBA Finals.

Amidst the issues in his personal life, Van Gundy accepted a front office role with the Celtics, granting him his first NBA job since his last days as the head coach of the Houston Rockets in 2007.

Van Gundy admitted to being reluctant at first due to his unfamiliarity with Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens but he admitted to his former broadcasting partner that the team came through in an emotional situation.

"I was really in an awkward place in life, not really knowing where I was going or what my purpose was, or how I’d be with this new group of people where I didn’t know anyone," Van Gundy said. "It’s been one of the most rejuvenating things I’ve ever gone through. Brad Stevens and (Celtics head coach) Joe Mazulla threw me a lifeline."

Time will tell if Van Gundy opts to take things a step further: reports from longtime NBA insider Marc Stein hint that Van Gundy has drawn interest from contenders seeking to fill a void in their respective assistant coaching departments.

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Geoff Magliocchetti

GEOFF MAGLIOCCHETTI

Editor-In-Chief at All Knicks