- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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MAITLAND, Fla. -- Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy can't understand why so many people are so surprised that the Boston Celtics knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"I think it's because of the whole LeBron James thing that there's a lot of people in the media that can't fathom him getting beaten," Van Gundy said after the Magic's practice on Friday afternoon. "I mean that.
"I just think there's a lot of people that [think], 'Oh, if you've got LeBron James you're going to win every night,' and no matter who else is on the other team it's a major upset. Call it an upset if you want, but Boston's pretty damn good.
"Now everybody goes into 'What's wrong with Cleveland mode,' instead of, we can never in sports just look and say, 'You know what? That team's pretty good.'"
Van Gundy wants people to give credit to the Celtics for simply outplaying James and the Cavaliers throughout the series.
"All I'm saying is that Cleveland did have the best record, but Boston struggled through the year with injuries and especially [Kevin] Garnett and [Paul] Pierce not being healthy," he said. "When they're healthy, which they are, I don't know why people would be [surprised].
"Some people are calling it a major upset. They want to call it an upset. I don't know how a team that's essentially the same two years removed from winning a championship, and is healthy, pulls a major upset."
The outspoken Magic head coach even expressed a little sympathy for James for all the scrutiny that he has dealt with over the last few days.
"I feel bad for him only in that, when you've taken a team like that and basically because of one guy [the expectation is] they're going to win a championship," Van Gundy said. "Then, instead of just going, 'Wow, the Celtics are good and they played great,' now it's, 'What's wrong with LeBron? Why didn't he play the way he did in Game 5? The talent around him is not good enough. Mike Brown can't coach.'
"You go through all the negatives ... [the media] can't just say, I can, but I guess you guys can't just say they lost to a damn good team."
As for the speculation that Brown might out of job soon, Van Gundy used the word 'scapegoat.'
"Mike Brown's one of the most successful coaches that there's been in this league for a long time," he said. "But it becomes scapegoat time and you're not going to see many people other than coaches stepping up and taking the responsibility. The players are absolved. It's sad, but it's the way it goes. None of it is surprising.
"Mike's been in a very difficult situation, again because the media created the expectations that that was a team that couldn't lose, and so when they did, he pays the price. Instead of people maybe just saying, 'The media was wrong." ... the inevitability of it. The 'Win a ring for the king,' and everything, it just made it inevitable that if it didn't go well, Mike would be the one to pay the price. I don't know if that's fair, but that's the way it is, that's business."
As for the business of where James may end up next, Van Gundy wasn't sure where the reigning MVP would be playing next season.
"I don't know LeBron well enough to have any idea where he'll end up," he said. "My guess would be Cleveland because as I understand it, [there's] around a $20 million difference if somebody goes elsewhere or signs where they are. I don't care how much money you have, that's a lot of money."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.
2dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann