If Grizzlies let Hollins walk, look for assistant Dave Joerger to step in


On the surface of it, the idea seems absurd — Lionel Hollins just led the Memphis Grizzlies to 56 wins and their deepest playoff run ever (the Western Conference Finals), why would they let him walk?

Hollins has said he wants to stay, but he and the new ownership and management in Memphis see the world differently. Hollins is old school, tough coach who fits with the old school, tough roster assembled in Memphis. But the new forces in the front office are analytics driven, they want to see more corner threes and less from the midrange. The divide was evident when the Grizzlies sent Rudy Gay away — analytics types praised the front office, but Hollins blasted the move.

So after some negotiations, the Grizzlies told Hollins he is welcome to talk to other teams. Go see what the market will bear.

But one of the reasons Memphis could go do that is they have assistant coach Dave Joerger in their back pocket — the defensive assistant coach of the Grizzlies who is analytics friendly. Sam Amick of the USA Today put it this way:

The Grizzlies are eyeing Memphis assistant Dave Joerger as a possible replacement for Hollins and are confident that he could help retain the “Grit and Grind” culture that has become such a fabric of the team and the town. Grizzlies’ management is expected to meet soon with Joerger to discuss the situation while Hollins tests his market value. Joerger won five championships as a D-League head coach and joined the Grizzlies staff nearly two years ago.

Hollins was a little shocked at that notion when discussing it on Sports 56 WHBQ Memphis radio Monday, as tweeted by the host Peter Edmiston.

“It’s not like Dave (Joerger) created our defensive system. He’s a good defensive coach. He wasn’t even the defensive coach until I made the defensive coach. We implemented my philosophy and I gave (Joerger) the authority o run it in practice, just like I give Bob Thornton the authority to run offense.

“It really is a disservice to Dave Joerger because Dave is a good guy and this puts him in a bad light in a lot of people’s minds.”

Hollins has made clear his desire to stay in Memphis and take this team to the next level. But Memphis management clearly feels comfortable if he leaves because they think they have the replacement in house.