Jeff Van Gundy: I Coached Russell Westbrook. His Name Was Steve Francis
Jeff Van Gundy said his biggest regret about his stint in Houston is giving up on Francis’ game and trying to change him completely, and noted that Westbrook is Francis pt II, but the difference is Scott Brooks allowed Westbrook to maintain his basic style while tweaking it a little to fit it into a winning style of basketball.
In the late 90s, I saw plenty of Francis highlights on Sportscenter but it wasn’t until I moved to Houston January 1st 2000 and watched a few Rockets games did I become a huge Steve Francis fan. The Lakers were still my team, Shaq was my favorite C, Webber PF & Vince was my favorite player to have the VCR ready for but Franchise became my favorite point guard or shooting guard or whatever position you wanted to throw the undersized guard that could get 4 blocks or 16 rebounds along with 1 facial on a center in a game.
I can’t say where things went “wrong” but as soon as we traded to the Orlando Magic I knew one of the most overall skilled players of all-time (yes I said it) would probably become a journeyman and never reach the level I expected him to reach when I first landed in H-Town.
When JVG made the comparison of Westbrook to Francis, I started thinking back to all the dunks, dimes and drama that came with Francis and hoped it wouldn’t happen to Westbrook. I also hope my following statement doesn’t come true but history tells us that young talented players like Westbrook on successful teams with a more popular & generally accepted to be better teammate like Durant will have some tough times in the near future depending on if the team wins a championship and who is making what and on the cover of this or that.
I personally want to see the Big 4 in OKC start a dynasty and not break up to become higher paid MVP contenders on other teams but I can’t say i’ll be surprised if that happens.
Thanks to B-Low for the JVG statement