Grading the 2012-13 Memphis Grizzlies: Lionel Hollins, Head Coach

USA TODAY Sports

Grading his past while the future remains uncertain

2012-13 Stats: 56 wins, 26 losses - .683 winning percentage at 15 games above .500 - finishing 2nd in Southwest division

2012-13 Playoff Stats: 15 games at an 8-7 record - .533 winning percentage

This is a weird one to write. In recent weeks, Lionel Hollis future with the Memphis Grizzlies remains uncertain. Rumors are circulating the blogosphere and NBA media world, revealing a lack-of conversation between ownership and Hollins regarding a renewal of his contract, which expires at the end of June.

I could very easily devote a majority of the article to addressing these rumors and make this less a "grading" article and more a "fight for Hollins" piece, but I'm going to resist my urges. I solely want to look at his 2012-13 numbers and grade him as a coach.

Without doubt, Hollins' season's coaching can be deemed successful. He coached the team to a .683 winning percentage during the season and planned his way into the Western Conference Finals against the always dangerous San Antonio Spurs. In the last three years under Lionel Hollins, Memphis has wont he sixth most games in the NBA (143-87, tied with the Lakers) despite shooting 600 fewer 3-pointers than any other team and ranking 24th in Effective Field Goal Percentage (.480).

The Grizzlies' numbers in the past three seasons:

Avg Rank
Steals 9.2 1st
Points in paint 46.6 2nd
ORB/game 12.4 3rd
Pts off TOs 18.8 1st
TO differential +2.3 1st

Hollins' performance was recognized - the writers granted him six first-place votes and four second-place votes to land him at 6th place for NBA's 2013 coach of the year surrounded by names like Frank Vogel and Gregg Popovich. Hollins is one of three NBA coaches to twice win a "Coach of the Month" award, along with Denver's George Karl and Miami's Erik Spoelstra. This means something special for a franchise like Memphis, who has only seen notable success in the last several years.

As impressive as the statistics are, however, what Hollins did off-the-court this season is remarkable. He is a hardass old-school coach who doesn't trust advanced stats, yet has humbled himself to partner with John Hollinger, the advanced-stats rock star who left ESPN to help manage the Grizzlies in December. He helped build the "grint-n-grind" mantra as much as any player, discouraging individualism and encouraging one unit on the court, pushing away intimidation and doubt.

HE IS A HARDASS OLD-SCHOOL COACH WHO DEMANDS RESPECT FROM HIS PLAYERS - THEY PLAY HARD FOR HIM AND HE GETS RESULTS.


This success hasn't come without difficulty - Hollins came into this season coaching underneath an ownership change after having a close relationship with previous owner Michael Heisley. In January, he watched ownership trade Rudy Gay out of town after he publicly pushed against the trade in media and in ownership meetings.

And yet, here I write at the end of a franchise-record 56 win season.

Hollins has been resilient and tough this season, addressing his impending contract question when he needs to, but pushing the conversation aside when he's on the court. He commands toughness and respect from each player - they play hard for him and he gets results.

We've had the privilege and honor to watch several players undergo personal transformation (I've referenced thisarticle in many of my pieces, but it's one of my favorites) - Hollins' leadership is a reason these kind of changes happen, making basketball a little more meaningful than a game.

Hollins is notable this season not because he's a highly accomplished NBA coach (which he is), and not just because there aren't other coaches out there who could do just as well (which there are). Hollins is notable because, as I reflect, I can boldly claim Hollins as the coach this franchise needed at this point in time.

The future remains uncertain, but I'm extremely satisfied with the past.

Grading

  • Coaching - B+
  • General Grizznosity* - A
  • Clutch Performance - B

Final Grade: A-

*Grizznosity: one's overall impact and representation of the Grizz, based on off-court contribution, cultural influence, leadership, and memorable moments comprising the 2012-13 season.

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