Jeff Van Gundy In these, basketball's showbiz days, Jeff Van Gundy doesn't look like a typical NBA coach -- he's a schlumpy bald guy with a permanent hangdog look whose idea of glamour is probably going for Wish-Bone salad dressing instead of the store brand. But looks are deceiving. Not only did Van Gundy lead the Rockets to the playoffs for the first time in, approximately, ever, he did it with a direct, blunt style that was completely refreshing in these days of coddling superstars. Not only did he call out star guard Steve Francis for missing a road trip, he stuck to his story that Francis had opted instead to go to the Super Bowl, even after Stevie Franchise's people tried to spin their way out of the claim. When the Rockets started a losing streak that put their playoff spot in jeopardy, Van Gundy didn't say anything about "taking it one game at a time"; instead, he said the team was on the verge of a "historic collapse." He doesn't bark this stuff out in mad-dog Lou Piniella style; he just matter-of-factly calls it like he sees it. As he said after one dispiriting early-season loss, "What am I supposed to say, 'Wow, we're busting our asses out there?' We're not."


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