Memphis built a roster that went all the way to the Western Conference Finals based on consistency and growth — they kept their core together (save for Rudy Gay) and built with those guys improving and growing together.
Which is why letting Lionel Hollins walk as a coach is a risk — he and his systems were part of that continuity.
It was also why assistant coach and defensive coordinator Dave Joerger was always the likely guy to take over as head coach — he isn’t a dramatic change for the team in terms of style. The guys know him.
And now Joerger has the job — he has been promoted to head coach in Memphis, reports Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.
What is the key difference for management between Hollins and Joerger? Willingness to listen to and work with the analytics-based front office that analytics-based teach billionaire owner Robert Pera put together. There was tension between Hollins old-school ways and the team heading into that.
That was most evident around the Rudy Gay trade — Hollins publicly ripped the move. But the Grizzlies were a clearly and measurably better offensive team after the trade (and the defense didn’t suffer) — instead of his inefficient 25 possessions a game the Grizzlies ran their offense through Marc Gasol at the elbow, more Mike Conley (who stepped up) and they used Zach Randolph more efficiently. It worked. They were better.
That tension never really went away despite the deep playoff run. The Grizzlies won 56 games and had their best season to date but it wasn’t enough for Hollins to keep his job (and he said on multiple occasions he wanted to stay).
Joerger was long the favorite for the job, but making this change is a risk. And in the West, with Russell Westbrook coming back to the Thunder and the Clippers improving their coaching, the Grizzlies have to get better, they have no margin for error. So there is a lot of pressure on Joerger and the front office now.
Out: Derek Fisher.
In: Kurt Rambis.
That’s only the first step of the Knicks’ coaching change.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
Of course, Luke Walton and Brian Shaw – like Fisher and the other top candidate in 2014, Steve Kerr – played for Phil Jackson. The Knicks president has a type, one that includes both good and bad candidates.
The good: Walton. He impressed with his handling of the Warriors in Steve Kerr’s absence. He’s one of the hottest coaches on the market. I have some doubts, given Kerr’s and Golden State’s players’ influence. But Walton has done plenty right to be in this position.
The bad: Shaw. Jackson reportedly preferred Shaw to Fisher two years ago, but Shaw was under contract with the Nuggets. Denver since fired him, because he did a stunningly awful job connecting with his players. Perhaps, he has grown in that area since, though.
It seems inevitable Tom Thibodeau’s name will come up. The former Bulls coach isn’t a Phil Jackson disciple, but he previously worked as a Knicks assistant. Maybe his New York connection will allow Thibodeau to overcome his lack of a Jackson tie.
A direct connection to Jackson clearly puts someone on the fast track for this job.
There were rumors about the Knicks firing Derek Fisher – and that was before New York lost 9-of-10.
Now, with the Knicks sinking out of the playoff picture, they’ve made a move.
Fisher was one of the NBA’s most improved coaches – which mostly speaks to how lousy of a job he did last year. But that was also his first season coaching in any capacity. If you’re going to hire someone so inexperienced, doesn’t it also make sense to give him time to learn on the job? And if progresses at a reasonable rate, doesn’t it make sense to allow him to continue to grow?
If the Knicks are firing Fisher now, he was probably doomed from the start.
There are plenty of reasons not to believe in Fisher, including his Xs and Os and refusal to see motivating his players as part of his job. But the Knicks did believe in him. They hired him. It’s difficult to see why they reversed course so quickly.
Especially to Kurt Rambis. Although he is just an interim, they will make another hire this summer.
Rambis went 15-67 and 17-65 in an ugly two-year stint coaching the Timberwolves. He probably won’t lift the 23-31 Knicks back into playoff contention this season.
Perhaps, that speaks to just how fed up the Knicks were with Fisher.
The NBA tweeted the Grizzlies beat the Mavericks on Saturday.
A mistake, yes. Dallas won the game, 114-110, in overtime.
But the tweet also could’ve reflected an alternate reality where the game were called correctly down the stretch.
The Mavericks had two cracks to win in regulation – a Dirk Nowitzki jumper and, after a Zach Randolph loose-ball foul going for the rebound, a lob to Justin Anderson. Neither connected, though neither should have even been attempted.
Nowitzki got away with travelling before his shot at the 5.2-second mark, according to the Last Two Minute Report:
Nowitzki (DAL) moves his pivot foot. The official is looking for any potential illegal contact and does not pick up the pivot foot.
The league also ruled Marc Gasol should’ve been called for fouling Nowitzki on the shot. But the travel came first, which would’ve made the foul irrelevant.
It’s obviously no guarantee the Grizzlies would’ve scored, but 5.2 seconds would’ve been plenty of time to get off a decent attempt. They deserved the opportunity.
At least the Mavericks earned the win in overtime. All three missed calls in the extra period worked against them. The NBA ruled two shooting fouls on Dallas – Nowitzki fouling Jeff Green with 2:07 left and Raymond Felton fouling Mike Conley with 6.5 seconds left – were errors. Those gave Memphis an extra two points on free throws. Gasol also got away with an offensive foul with 1:43 left, though the Grizzlies didn’t score on that possession anyway.
Avery Bradley hit a perfectly dramatic shot Friday – a 3-pointer down two with time expiring against the conference’s best team.
When it fell, the Celtics justifiably went wild.
Well, not all the Celtics: