Earlier in September, Sports By Brooks tweeted that they’d heard of a new ESPN NBA Countdown studio line-up from LA. Bill Simmons and Stan Van Gundy were to host and hopefully add some spice into ESPN’s show that’s always lagged far behind their competitors at TNT’s Inside the NBA. Maybe Stan would add a soupcon too much spice, it appears.
ESPN said they couldn’t come to terms with Stan Van Gundy, but The Big Lead’s sources say David Stern actually stepped in to tell ESPN they would not be hiring Stan Van Gundy. In that story, the NBA spokesman responded with:
“It was ESPN and ESPN alone that made any decisions about Stan Van Gundy.”
By now you’ve heard about Stan Van Gundy’s comments to Dan Le Batard, transcribed here from The Big Lead.
“No one at ESPN will tell us what happened. Certainly the NBA office isn’t going to tell us what happened. One of the quotes from ESPN in there - we had discussions, but couldn’t agree on a role … as is usual, that’s a bunch of BS from ESPN. […]
What I find fascinating … you have to give David Stern and the NBA a lot of credit … ESPN pays the league, and then the league tells them what to do. It’s more ESPN’s problem. You gotta have no balls whatsoever to pay someone hundreds of millions of dollars and let them run your business.”
In 2007, the NBA signed a contract with TNT and ESPN/ABC for a reported $930 million. Television contracts are “symbiotic” in that there’s a partnership between league and network. It looks like this includes personnel hires.
Why would Stern blackball Stan Van Gundy? Tom Ziller believes it might have something to do with the time Van Gundy compared Stern to deposed Libyan dictator, Muammar Qaddafi.
Or, as The Big Lead points out, it could be related to the Grantland Podcast back in September when Stan joined his brother Jeff, ESPN’s senior NBA analyst, and Dan Le Batard. If you didn’t already know, ESPN owns Grantland. During the interview Stan was typically off-the-cuff and honest in his pronouncements. In fact, they talked about how Stan is sometimes too honest, mostly to his own detriment; there was no way they could have known how prescience that talk was. Stan had some typically brazen (and probably true) things to say about the league that Stern built during the same Podcast:
“You’re going to make me see the media every single day, at least once? … You’re going to go through this all year, but if you at any time you step out of line on any of this, then we’re going to slap $35,000 on you. Meanwhile, David Stern, who is a very smart, very calculating guy, has said some things he’s been criticized for that have been totally out of line, and he speaks to the media like 3-4 times a season! [Laughter from LeBatard] It’s absurd what the expectations are – that we’re going to see the media every day and answer questions and never step out of line.
Every year [during offseason meetings] one guy will be brave enough to question that … maybe we don’t have to give the media total accessibility? And David Stern will beat them down in front of everybody. It’s totally unfair, but that’s the way it is in our league.”
So yeah, Stern doesn’t like Stan very much, and Stern’s been known to dabble in things that he feels are within his purview, even when everyone knows they ruin the integrity of the league. I’m really excited to have Stan Van Gundy untethered to any network, just saying shit the way he sees it—regardless of the consequences; the crazy thing is he probably would have done that anyway if ESPN had hired him, which is why Stern was concerned enough to nix the deal from his underground lair.
Stan accuses ESPN of lacking balls, but we should all know by now, Stan’s got plenty of testicular fortitude left for ESPN and then some. It’s a shame. Now we’re stuck with Wilbon, Jon Barry, Magic and Chris Broussard to lull us to sleep during ESPN’s studio show.