Lionel Hollins led the Memphis Grizzlies to a franchise-best 56 wins and a trip to the Western Conference Finals last year. His reward for that accomplishment? Not having his contract renewed by Grizzlies management, and becoming unemployed once the season was finished.
There were a variety of reasons that the franchise chose to part ways with Hollins, but two stood out above all else.
The team wasn’t happy that Hollins would publicly give his opinion on personnel matters when it was contrary to the direction the franchise chose to go — like after the team traded Rudy Gay in the middle of the season, for example.
The other issue was Hollins having an aversion to taking advanced statistics as gospel, in terms of the front office telling him what to do with his lineups and sets based on what the numbers and the extensive video research may have shown.
These differences made it impossible for Hollins to return to Memphis, despite the fact that his way, though obstinate at times, had proven to be successful. He did have at least one offer to return to the sidelines this season as an assistant coach elsewhere, but chose instead to hold out for another shot at becoming an NBA head coach.
“I believe I’ve established myself as a head coach and I’d like another opportunity to show that [my success] wasn’t a fluke,” Hollins said. “I feel like I’ve proven I can take a young team and develop it, then sustain what I’ve done by what I did in the last five years in Memphis.” …
Over the summer, Hollins said he had an opportunity to join Maurice Cheeks’ staff with the Detroit Pistons as an assistant coach but declined.
“I had done it [serve as an assistant coach] for a long time before I was given the opportunity to be a head coach,” Hollins said. “But my thought process was, ‘I’ve established myself as a head coach. I’d like to stay in that state at the moment.’ But if it didn’t work out, yeah, I’d go back and be an assistant coach. I’d go to college and be a head coach there, if I had the opportunity. But my thought process is to be a professional head coach.”
It’s going to be very interesting to see if Hollins gets that opportunity anytime soon, considering that the league has seemed to embrace younger coaches with lesser experience who can be molded into the franchise’s way of doing things.
Hollins is more than qualified, but has strong ideas of how winning is accomplished. He would seem to be best-suited to leading a more veteran roster while working for a trusting front office that is as hands-off as possible, but it’s unclear just when that that specific chance might present itself.