|Former Heat coach Van Gundy back in Miami for first time as opponent|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 28 December 2007 11:56|
Some would say right at home.
With good reason - that spot used to be home.
Van Gundy spent 12 years in the Heat organization under Pat Riley, before resigning unexpectedly as coach in December 2005 and spending the next 18 months in what essentially amounted to a basketball exile, still with the franchise yet never around the team.
On Friday night, Van Gundy returned as an opponent for the first time when Miami hosted his Orlando Magic.
And in classic Van Gundy fashion, he insisted there was no overwhelming sense of nostalgia.
``I know it's supposed to be, but no, I don't feel any differently than I did Wednesday night or I probably will tomorrow night,'' Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy, who replaced Riley about a week before the 2003-04 season, went 112-73 in two-plus regular seasons with the Heat. His first Miami team started 0-7 before eventually making the second round of the playoffs behind a rookie named Dwyane Wade, and the next season - Shaquille O'Neal's first in Miami - the Heat went 59-23 and lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Miami started 11-10 in 2005-06 and Van Gundy stunned the organization by deciding to resign. Riley took over for his former top assistant and engineered a run to the franchise's first NBA title. Even though the story has always persisted that Riley and Van Gundy had a fractured relationship, Riley still speaks glowingly of his friend-turned-rival.
``He's a winner,'' Riley said. ``He's a great coach. I'm happy for he and his family. He'll always have a place in my heart here. Stan and I were very, very close for 12 years. We were locked at the hip in our philosophies, our ethic.''
The Magic arrived in South Florida on Thursday, which gave Van Gundy plenty of time to check out some of his favorite restaurants or other places.
But instead of enjoying a Miami night, he remained in the hotel, studying the Heat.
``I have a pretty good routine of checking into a hotel and leaving for walkthrough and the game,'' Van Gundy said. ``Everybody wants it to be more than it is. I understand that, because you guys like stories, but it's the same as any other game.''
Some things are different, of course.
After practice Friday, a now caffeine-conscious Van Gundy sipped water instead of Diet Coke, which he used to inhale. And he wore a white Magic shirt, not the black Heat practice gear that he donned for more than a decade.
Other than that, he's still the same old Stan.
He spent a few minutes discussing his commitment to defense, which is nothing new. The die-hard baseball fan also talked about the Florida Marlins, who are managed by his close friend Fredi Gonzalez. He even lobbied for help in selling his Miami house, lamenting the state of the stagnant South Florida real estate market.
``Absolutely ambitious seller,'' Van Gundy said.