How did David Fizdale build such strong relationships with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade while a Heat assistant have such a falling out with Marc Gasol while coaching the Grizzlies?
That question has received closer inspection with the Knicks hiring Fizdale as their coach.
Apparently, Gasol’s criticism of Memphis for losing Zach Randolph and Tony Allen – who, with Gasol and Mike Conley, formed the successful Grit & Grind core – wasn’t directed at just the front office.
Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
The “Grit n Grind” Grizzlies had become a brand in Memphis, and Fizdale’s objective was to blow it up.
“He wanted his own locker room,” a Grizzlies source told the Daily News. “And he basically convinced management to get rid of Zach (Randolph), to get rid of Tony Allen.”
Trying to morph the Grizzlies was always going to strain a relationship with Gasol, and the toxicity reached a pivotal moment when, according to a source, Fizdale confronted the team about its lack of desire following a defeat. The coach went around the locker room asking each player if he believed he could win a championship. If they lacked belief, they didn’t belong on the Grizzlies.
The younger players went along. Gasol, however, answered, “No.” Then when asked for an explanation, Gasol replied, “We don’t have the right leader.”
Fizdale had a solid comeback, but it couldn’t have helped his future with Gasol.
“I get it, you want Gregg Popovich, and I want LeBron James,” the coach told his star player, according to a source.
Ken Berger of Bleacher Report:
According to a person familiar with the situation, a key source of the unrest was that Fizdale diminished Gasol’s Euroleague accomplishments.
“He literally said to Marc Gasol, ‘I know what real championships are, not that fake stuff in Europe,'” the person said. “‘That Euro championship stuff doesn’t cut it.'”
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
According to a source close to the situation, some of their problems started when Fizdale dismissed Gasol’s success on the international stage. He also reminded Gasol that he, Fizdale, won two championships and that Gasol had zero. The general feeling among the Grizzlies was that Fizdale’s two championships as an assistant coach in Miami were because of LeBron James.
Fizdale is incredibly confident in his methods, and he’s aiming no lower than a championship. The Grizzlies peaked at the conference finals, and they were declining with age.
But that’s not Gasol’s fault. He was trying help the team be as good as possible, even if the result would be less than title contention. I can see how frequently hearing about LeBron would grow tiresome.
Gasol’s international accomplishments are impressive. So are Fizdale’s two titles as a Heat assistant. How impressive? It’s debatable, and if these two were continuously engaged in that debate, that was problematic. Clearly, nearly believed in the other other enough.
Whose fault is that? Blame probably belongs on both sides. Fizdale wasn’t the only coach to have issues with Gasol.
Some of this will solve itself naturally in New York. No Knicks have experienced as much success, in the NBA or internationally, as Gasol. Fizdale’s worldview won’t necessarily ruffle feathers the same way in New York.
And this single case doesn’t make Fizdale a poor coaching choice. Not even close. Many players appreciate Fizdale’s candor. His career shouldn’t be defined by Gasol.
But his feud with Gasol shows Fizdale had room to improve in his communication with players. The Knicks are giving him an opportunity to do that.