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Zion Williamson 2021 NBA MVP odds: New Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy has history of developing young big men

The New Orleans Pelicans have hired Stan Van Gundy as their next head coach with an eye toward developing Zion Williamson.
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Arguably the most attractive head coach opening in the NBA this offseason was with the New Orleans Pelicans even though they missed the playoffs in the stop-and-start 2019-20 season. However, the Pelicans have a stellar young group of talent led by 2019 No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson. New Orleans has finally decided on its head coach, and it's Stan Van Gundy who will be entrusted with getting the best out of the mega-talented Williamson.

Van Gundy has a 523-384 career regular-season record as a head coach, spending five seasons with Orlando, four with Detroit and three with Miami. His teams were 48-43 in the playoffs. The 2008-09 Magic reached the NBA Finals but were swept by the Houston Rockets.

Why is this a minor surprise to some? Both of Van Gundy's final two Pistons teams were below .500 and missed the playoffs, and he has been out of coaching since 2018. Van Gundy deserved all the blame for Detroit's struggles because he also was president of basketball operations. He will not have any such power in New Orleans as the Pels have a very good person in that role in David Griffin.

Van Gundy had served as a TNT analyst – and a good one – since leaving Detroit. Stan's brother Jeff had been the one who has been linked to several coaching jobs over the past few months.

One thing that did work in Stan's favor was his history of developing young, talented big men like Dwight Howard (Orlando), Lamar Odom (Miami) and Andre Drummond (Detroit). The Pels want to put Zion in the best possible situation.

New Orleans fired Alvin Gentry right after the regular-season restart concluded and the Pelicans played terribly for the most part in the Orlando bubble. Ty Lue was an early favorite for the New Orleans job and he might have taken it, but the Clippers fired head coach Doc Rivers and handed the job to Lue, who was Rivers' assistant.

Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, a former head coach of the Bucks and Nets, apparently was not a finalist. Only the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets openings remain.

The Pelicans are +3000 on the early William Hill odds to win the Western Conference next season and Zion is +5000 to win league MVP. The next big offseason move for New Orleans is whether or not to trade excellent two-way guard Jrue Holiday, who would bring a terrific haul in return. Holiday will be an unrestricted free agent after next season. 

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