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Volume 24 No. 156
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ESPN Execs Believe Stan Van Gundy's Threats About Snubbing Access To Blow Over

ESPN execs view Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy’s threat to snub ESPN reporters that want to interview him as an issue that will blow over. ESPN would not comment on this story, but sources said they do not believe that it has become important enough to warrant a formal phone call from Exec VP/Content Connor Schell to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who currently is in London for the NBA’s annual U.K. game. Network execs said they expect the NBA to handle any fallout. Silver has spoken with Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who also serves as President of the NBA Coaches Association, and the league has been in contact with ESPN about how it is handling the situation. “We understand and appreciate the disappointment of our coaches with what they feel is unfair criticism of one of their colleagues,” said NBA Exec VP/Communications Mike Bass. “While we do believe it’s important for us to push all news outlets to cover our league in a balanced manner, ESPN’s editorial decisions are independent from our business partnership.” The problem started with a story posted Sunday on ESPN.com where author Jeff Goodman quoted LaVar Ball, father of Lakers G Lonzo Ball, as questioning Lakers coach Luke Walton’s coaching style and saying that Walton has “lost the team.” Van Gundy in protest said that he would not participate in production meetings. Other coaches, including Carlisle and the Warriors' Steve Kerr, bashed ESPN for interviewing LaVar Ball. The first test comes Jan. 19 when ESPN carries Pistons-Wizards. Ryan Ruocco and Doris Burke will call the game for ESPN, and Van Gundy is said to have an excellent relationship with Burke. ESPN execs are not expecting him to follow through on his threat -- at least not in that game. Jeff Van Gundy, Stan's brother, is ESPN’s top NBA analyst and also has been outspoken about the topic. He will call tonight’s Clippers-Warriors game, his first on-air role since this controversy blew up. Known for his caustic opinions, Jeff Van Gundy is expected to weigh in on the matter at some point during the game.