Phil Jackson issued an apology Friday to Stan Van Gundy — sort of.
Van Gundy, now the Orlando coach, was bothered by Jackson’s remarks Tuesday that he expected Pat Riley to replace Erik Spoelstra as the Heat’s coach if the team’s performance did not improve. Jackson said he envisioned a reprise of the “Van Gundy situation,” when Van Gundy resigned as the Heat’s coach to be with his family. Many believed Riley had stepped in because he did not like the direction of the team, which was 11-10. Under Riley, the Heat won the 2005-06 NBA championship.
Jackson said he was sorry for offending Van Gundy – but he did not back away from his assessment of what is happening with the Heat, who have lost three in a row and are 8-7.
“It was an offhanded remark about if things continue to go poorly for Miami what might happen, but obviously Stan felt that he had to say something,” Jackson said Friday after the team’s shootaround, the first time he has addressed the media since Van Gundy’s comments Wednesday. “Unfortunately, he got defensive about it and I didn’t mean to do that. I should apologize because I don’t know that situation. Stan was going home to be with his family, and that was his reason for leaving. I have no idea about the rest of it, why he came back after retiring and being with his family, but that’s his decision and fine.”
Jackson said he was only articulating what many in the NBA are thinking about the Heat.
“I’m not throwing any aspersions on Spoelstra,” Jackson added. “He’s a very fine young coach, but we’ve been in this game long enough to know what it’s like.”