Van Gundy Getting That Coaching Itch

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ For Stan Van Gundy, a moment during the Orlando Magic&#39;s summer league practices last week simply reaffirmed how much he wanted to be back on the sideline. <br/><br/>His plan during

Tuesday, July 10th 2007, 7:27 am

By: News On 6

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ For Stan Van Gundy, a moment during the Orlando Magic's summer league practices last week simply reaffirmed how much he wanted to be back on the sideline.

His plan during those workouts was to merely observe, letting assistants Steve Clifford, Brendan Malone and Bob Beyer run practices. But as the hours went along, Van Gundy, who hadn't been part of an NBA practice since resigning from the Miami Heat in December 2005, just couldn't stop himself from doing what he does best _ coaching.

``I really did try to sort of sit back and watch practice, but I just kept drifting down to the court more and more,'' Van Gundy said. ``I didn't overstep what those guys were doing, but my voice started to be heard a little more. It's hard to stay away and see things and I'm looking forward to being back.''

He's back, sort of, this week, overseeing the Magic's entry in the six-team Pepsi Pro Summer League, which opened Monday at Orlando's practice facility. Van Gundy watched games from a private room above the gym, sipping his omnipresent diet soda while rows of NBA coaches, executives and agents watched from courtside. Van Gundy considered running the summer league team, but eventually delegated the head-coach role to Clifford, part of his newly hired staff.

``I actually wanted to see them work a little bit, because it's some guys that I haven't worked with, guys that I knew but haven't worked with,'' Van Gundy said. ``And then the other thing is when you're in the middle of it coaching, you've got to concentrate on making the whole thing work and I really wanted to concentrate on watching a few guys. You can do that a lot easier if you're not having to worry about how guys are playing the pick-and-roll and stuff.''

Van Gundy was hired by the Magic last month, agreeing to a deal after Billy Donovan decided to leave Florida for the job, then changed his mind to return to the two-time defending NCAA champion Gators. So far, Van Gundy's chosen his staff _ Patrick Ewing, who isn't at summer league because of shoulder surgery, is among his four assistants _ and seen the Magic come to terms with marquee free agent Rashard Lewis, who could sign a five-year deal as early as Wednesday.

But it's been a busy time in more than a basketball sense for Van Gundy, too. His family is still in South Florida, where he spent more than a decade as an assistant. He eventually _ and temporarily _ succeeded Pat Riley as coach of the Heat, winning more than 60 percent of his games as head coach and leading them to the 2005 Eastern Conference finals. He's stayed in Miami since resigning, but will formally move to Central Florida in early August.

``Time very well spent,'' Van Gundy said of his hiatus from coaching, which began with his unexpected decision to resign as coach and become a consultant in the Heat organization on Dec. 12, 2005. ``I was with my family more in a year and a half than I had been the rest of the time I'd been in Miami. And I hope, I expect _ although I don't know for sure _ that it'll carry over even though I'm back away again.''

He looked rested and relaxed Monday in an untucked shirt and black slacks, shaking hands with former colleagues and seemed genuinely happy to be around the game again _ further convincing him that the time was right to be back in the NBA.

``We haven't lost yet,'' Van Gundy said. ``We have not lost. We're undefeated. It's been great.''

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