Daryl Morey shares funny Jeff Van Gundy story about Steve Novak’s defense

Estimated read time 2 min read

When the Houston Rockets hired Daryl Morey in 2006, his first draft pick was Steve Novak, a 6’10” sharp-shooting big man out of Marquette. Morey loved his three-point shooting ability. But according to a profile in The Ringer, Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy wasn’t a fan of Novak and his defense.

Van Gundy complained that Novak’s defensive limitations made it impossible for him to find minutes. While Novak was skinny and not particularly strong, Morey explained that the biggest problem was he was often in the wrong spots on defense. But when Morey told Van Gundy that Novak’s father coached a high school team in Milwaukee, the Rockets’ coach was stunned.

Morey recounted, “Jeff’s eating food and he drops his fork. He says, ‘What? Say that again?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, his father’s a head coach at the high school level in the Milwaukee area.’ Jeff goes, ‘If he were my son, I would have no choice but, in the middle of the night, to smother him to death with a pillow to save the family honor. The Van Gundy name would not survive if Steve’s defense was on our résumé.’”

The Rockets would finish 52-30 that year and lose in the first round to Utah, without Novak playing a single playoff minute. Despite the stellar record, Houston fired Van Gundy after the season – and Steve Novak lived to play 10 more seasons in the NBA.

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