Stan Van Gundy is running away from me.
OK, not running.
But he is moving quickly across the parking lot of the Quest Multisport facility in Chicago, his forehead peppered by beads of sweat, strands of his thinning salt-and-pepper hair waving in the wind. (As always, his mustache is magnificent.)
He makes for a black Lincoln Navigator that just pulled up, almost like a getaway ride.
Stan could just be trying to get to the airport. Lots of coaches are right now, what with the NBA Draft Combine wrapping up and all.
He could be fleeing, knowing the questions I have for him. After all, I have been trying to reach him the last few weeks, and Detroit’s media reps say they’ve been telling him to call.
And Stan has not called.
I saw him earlier today. Maybe I should have asked him then. The timing just didn’t feel right. He was occupied. I was distracted. We were at neighboring urinals.
Anyway, here I am, chasing him across a parking lot. Do you have a minute for like two questions?
“Sorry, gotta run!” he says. And then he’s gone.
Can’t say I wasn’t warned. His brother, Jeff, told me the week before, “Yeah, he won’t want to talk to you about that.”
That being our investigation.
The subject: the fashion of NBA coaches.
At its core, one question: Why the hell do they all still wear suits?
Baseball managers wear the same uniforms as their players. (Joe Maddon in a suit in the dugout? Not happening.)
In the NFL, where coaches once wore suits, now they wear team pullovers or polos—or, of course, hoodies with the sleeves chopped off. (I’d bet anything that if it was easier than the hoodie, Bill Belichick would go full-on baseball manager and coach in a football uniform.)
Yet the NBA coaches’ dress code grows more strict: Only a few years ago, they were explicitly prohibited from wearing anything other than collared shirts under suit jackets.
So within these rigid requirements, do these men of sport feel truly free? Our core question is about more than clothing. It’s about the very nature of identity.
OK, not really.
Mainly, we just want to figure out whether coaches actually like wearing suits all the time—and, cutting to the chase, we want to answer the most important question of all: Who would be the basketball Belichick?
There are some obvious candidates. There’s Stan—he just looks like he’d prefer a hoodie, or at least something other than a suit (though that’s not exactly why I chased him).
Gregg Popovich, though, seems the most likely by a mile. His persona runs in almost perfect parallel to that of Belichick: the secretive genius leader of a dynasty, rarely giving the media much more than a hard time, unconcerned with silly things like image and fashion because he’s too busy winning. Would he prefer to coach in a hoodie, too? (Could that have given the Spurs yet more magic this season?)
Indeed, we did find basketball’s Belichick.
But he’s not Pop—and he was not easy to find.
B/R Mag put in interview requests with virtually every NBA coach, a few international and college coaches, some NFL and college football coaches, and some baseball managers.
Virtually all said requests were “respectfully declined” (or ignored).
Jeff Van Gundy’s take on coaches’ game attire can be summed up with one quote: “It’s just something you have to do, so you do it. Really, who cares?”
“Nobody thinks about wearing sweats or any of that kind of stuff,” says Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle, who’s also president of the National Basketball Coaches Association. “That’s just not how we do it.”
Could it really be that simple?
Could it be that coaches have better things to do than return phone calls about their clothes?
Could it be a conspiracy?
Had so much fun on this one. And if that opening didn’t make you want to keep reading, consider this: You, too, can read what one reader emailed to say was “the biggest waste of space on the Internet I have seen in several years.”
So, you know, enjoy.