Mavs From the Past: Keith Van Horn

Keith Van Horn is best known for his earlier years in the NBA, when he was one of the faces of the late 90s to early 2000s New Jersey Nets. While some people may not remember his days on the Dallas Mavericks, he took part in one of the team’s best seasons.

College Years

Van Horn attended the University of Utah where he played on the men’s basketball team.

In his first year at the school, the 6’ 10” forward immediately became a starter on the team, starting in 24 out of his 25 games played that season. He had an impressive freshman year at Utah, averaging 18.3 points per game (PPG), 8.3 rebounds per game (RPG), 0.8 assists per game (APG), 0.8 steals per game (SPG), and 1.6 blocks per game (BPG). The Utes didn’t have the same luck as Van Horn, the team went 8-10 in conference games, finished sixth in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), and missed out on the NCAA tournament. The team finished the season with an even 14-14 record. Van Horn’s 18.3 PPG in his first season set a Utah-freshman record. He was named to the All-Wac first-team in his rookie season at Utah as a result of his successful first season.

Van Horn’s numbers improved in his sophomore season on the team. He put up 21.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.8 BPG while starting in all 33 of his games played.The team also vastly improved as they went 15-3 in conference play, finished first in their conference, became WAC regular season champions, WAC tournament champions, and qualified for the NCAA tournament. They entered March Madness as the No. 4 seed in the West Region. In the first round of the tournament, they took down the No. 13 seed, Long Beach State. In the following round, the Utes were defeated by the No. 5 seed, Mississippi State University. They finished off the season with a winning record of 28-6. Van Horn’s leadership and ability to lead his team to the NCAA tournament didn’t go unnoticed as he was again named to the All-WAC first-team and won his first WAC Player of the Year award.

Van Horn continued to improve his game in his junior year at Utah. He averaged 21.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 0.7 BPG while taking part in 32 of the season’s games. Utah went on to repeat in conference play as they again went 15-3, finished first, was named WAC regular season champions, and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. They qualified for the tournament as the No. 4 seed in the Midwest Region. Utah defeated the No. 13 seed, Canisius University, in the first round of the tournament. In the next round, they took down the No. 5 seed, Iowa State University. The Utes’ luck ran out in the Sweet 16 round of March Madness when they lost to the No. 1 seed, University of Kentucky. Utah finished the season with a winning record of 27-7. Awards and honors kept coming Van Horn’s way as he was named a Consensus second-team All-American, his third All-WAC first-team, and won his second WAC player of the Year award.

Van Horn’s senior season was the best in his career stats-wises. He put up 22.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 1.2 BPG while starting in all 32 of his games played. Utah couldn’t be stopped in conference play for a third consecutive year as they went an impressive 15-1, finished first in the conference, were crowned WAC regular season champs, WAC tournament champs, and qualified for the NCAA tournament again. This time around they entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed in the West Region. In the first round, they took down the No. 15 seed, the Navy. Utah then went on to defeat the No. 7 seed, the University of Carolina at Charlotte. They followed that up by beating the No. 6 seed, Stanford University, in the Sweet 16. The Utes’ journey came to an end in the Elite 8 when they lost to the No. 1 seed again, the University of Kentucky. Utah finished the season with an impressive winning record of 29-4. Van Horn was honored for his great team leadership and season success by being named a Consensus first-team All-American, made his fourth All-WAC first-team appearance,  won his third and final WAC Player of the Year award, and was named ESPN’s Men’s College Player of the Year.

He finished his time as the all-time leading scorer in Utah and WAC history. He is also Utah’s career leader in free-throw percentage and second in total rebounds.

Welcome to the NBA

Van Horn was drafted 2nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1997 NBA Draft. His time in Philadelphia lasted two days as he was traded almost immediately to the team where he gained his notoriety, the Nets.

He was quickly handed the reins when he arrived in New Jersey. He led the team in scoring in his rookie year and helped lead the team to the playoffs. He was also named to the 1997-98 NBA All-Rookie First Team. He continued to help lead the team to several playoff appearances, including making back-to-back Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. In his five seasons with the Nets, Van Horn averaged 18.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.6 BPG while starting in 312 out of his 314 games played with the team. By the end of his Nets tenure, he ranked in the top ten in several of the team’s statistical categories. When it comes to rankings in the Nets’ history books, he’s currently ninth in field-goals made with 335, ninth in field-goals attempted with 968, and tenth in defensive rebounds with 1,727.

Journey Around the NBA

During the 2002 offseason, Van Horn was traded back to the 76ers. He spent one year with the team where he averaged 15.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.4 BPG while starting in all but one of his 74 games played. He was the number two scorer and rebounder on the team. Philadelphia finished fourth in the East with a 47-35 record. They got past the New Orleans Hornets before losing to the Detroit Pistons in the second round. In the playoffs, Van Horn put up 10.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.2 BPG in 12 starts.

He was traded again the following offseason, this time to the New York Knicks. He only spent half a season in New York putting up 16.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 0.4 BPG in his 47 starts with the team.

Halfway through the season, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He spent one full year in Milwaukee, starting in 28 out of his 58 games played with the team. In his two half-seasons with the team, he racked up 12.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, and 0.4 BPG. The Bucks finished 41-41 and sixth in the East in Van Horn’s first half-season with the team. The Bucks didn’t make it far into the playoffs, getting eliminated in the first round by the Pistons. Van Horn started in two of the five playoff games and averaged 8.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 0.6 BPG.

The Dallas Years

He made his arrival to Dallas halfway through the 2004-05 season via trade. Upon his arrival to the team, he became a valuable sixth man for the Mavs. In his first half-season with the Mavericks, he averaged 12.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 0.3 BPG while starting in three of his 29 games with the team. Dallas finished the season 58-24 and clinched the fourth seed in the West. In the first round of the playoffs, they took down the Houston Rockets in a seven-game series. In the following round, the Mavs lost to the Phoenix Suns in six games and were eliminated. Van Horn only took part in three of the playoff games, all coming off the bench and he put up 7.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.3 APG, and 0.3 SPG in his limited appearances.

The following season Van Horn continued to be used as a key bench piece on their path to the NBA Finals. He put up 8.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.6 SPG, and 0.2 BPG while taking part in 53 games. The Mavericks did better than the previous year, going 60-22 and again finishing fourth in the Western Conference. Dallas swept the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. They then went on to defeat their rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, in seven games. In the Western Conference Finals, they got their revenge on the Suns when they beat them in six games, to earn the Mavs their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history. In the Finals, the Mavericks faced off against the Miami Heat. Dallas took an early 2-0 lead in the series but lost the next four games in the series, ultimately losing to the Heat in six games. Van Horn took part in 14 of the playoff games and even got the opportunity to start in three of them. In the playoffs, Van Horn managed to put up 3.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.1 APG, and 0.3 BPG.

After the Finals appearance, Van Horn took a year off from basketball. He signed a three-year deal with the Mavericks a year later in order for them to trade him to the Nets to acquire Jason Kidd. As was expected, he didn’t play a minute for the Nets and was waived in October 2008. That would be the end of his basketball career.

Van Horn’s time in Dallas was brief but he made an impact on the team. He was an offensive spark off the bench during one of the Mavericks’ best seasons along with being a playoff and NBA Finals. His NBA Finals experience came in handy since he was used to the pressure and had the knowledge of how it would go. Van Horn averaged 10.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.6 SPG, and 0.3 BPG in his time with the Mavs.

Personal Life 

Van Horn lives in Colorado with his wife, Amy, and his four children, Sabrina, Nick, Noelle, and Haley. Van Horn assisted in coaching Noelle’s and Haley’s basketball teams, while his other daughter, Sabrina, played soccer in high school.

Van Horn’s No. 44 jersey was retired by his Alma Mater, the University of Utah, in 1998. In 2008, he was named to the University of Utah’s “All-Century” basketball team. Four years later, he was inducted into the University of Utah’s Crimson Club Hall of Fame.

During his NBA career, Van Horn got the opportunity to don the cover of SLAM Magazine and the video game, NBA Jam 99.

He was a co-founder of the Lincoln Hills Fly Fishing Club. Later on, he sold his share of the club.

Van Horn has had many different business ventures since retiring from the NBA. He was a co-founder and managing partner at Accuworks Software, a business app. He is currently a managing partner at VHRE Properties, a real estate investment company. Van Horn also co-founded and coached his own youth basketball program, the Colorado Premier Basketball Club.

Van Horn has also done work with special needs children such as coaching youth Special Olympians and teaching them new basketball drills at the Evergreen Rec Center.

Van Horn and his wife started their own charity organization, the Van Horn Charitable Fund, which donates to non-profit organizations dedicated to helping others’ lives.

He’s served on the University of Utah’s advisory board and the Positive Coaching Alliance advisory board.


Van Horn had a successful college career and early years in the NBA. He was a reliable starter on every team he was on, he was a great asset to have on offense and some extra assistance on the defensive end of the floor. Even though his tenure in Dallas wasn’t the most memorable time in his career, he still was part of the best seasons in Mavericks’ history. Van Horn is one of those players that’s not talked about as much but he has etched his name in basketball history.

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