Lionel Hollins: When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong, The Final Chapter?

USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies' head coach, now given permission to talk to other teams, took to Memphis radio this morning to say he wants to stay in Memphis, that certain media members want him gone, and insinuated that Dave Joerger might be stabbing him in the back.

Well, hot on the heels of yesterday’s news that the Grizzlies had given Lionel Hollins permission to speak to other teams about a contract for next season, Hollins took to the airwaves in Memphis this morning and proved that while his candor is admirable, and his no-nonsense approach may be what makes him a good coach, it’s also what makes him (1) unlikely to be the coach of the Grizzlies next year and (2) impossible to completely root for.

I’ll let some tweets from some Memphis folks speak for themselves, and tell the story of the interview with Peter Edmiston of Sports 56 and the Commercial Appeal.

Hollins also said there was never any discussion that he had to play Ed Davis; he also took a shot at Memphis radio host Chris Vernon for criticizing Hollins’ request that Davis play in the Summer League this year.

Lionel also said that he disagreed with the decision to bring in Allen Iverson, Jeremy Pargo, and Acie Law. So did we, coach. So did we. (’Scuse me while I go pour one out for all the home games AI didn’t play.)

Overall, Hollins was amiable and forthright, and laid-back and approachable in a way that he hasn’t been in a while, clearly stating that he loved the guys on the team and had their best interests at heart, and that the guys on the team knew that about him. He made a compelling case that he should be brought back, and it was hard to imagine that the Grizzlies weren’t willing to bring this guy back[1].

And then, the topic of Griz assistant coach Dave Joerger—rumored to be front-runner for the Grizzlies’ head spot if Hollins is gone—was brought up, and this happened…

The point that Hollins was making was that other teams don’t get rid of their head coaches just because they have a young upcoming coach that is getting buzz for HC spots around the league. And I understand that point, and it’s certainly true—especially in the case of the Spurs, who just lost an assistant to the Hawks.

But the point that Hollins is making—that the organization shouldn’t move an established coach to make way for an up-and-comer[2]—doesn’t apply if the organization thinks that the up-and-comer would be a better coach than the established head coach.

It’s hard not to assume [the Griz] think Joerger would be easier to work with.

I don’t know for a fact that the Grizzlies organization thinks Dave Joerger is a better coach than Lionel Hollins. It’s hard not to assume they think Joerger would be easier to work with. But if the organization thinks Joerger is a better fit than Hollins, why wouldn’t they promote him? He also said that “Jerry West hired Marc Iavaroni because he was the next up-and-coming superstar coach.”

Taking to the radio to compare Dave Joerger to Marc Iavaroni while (apparently) competing with Joerger for the Grizzlies coaching job? Maybe not the best move, even if you think it’s a valid comparison.

Basically, on the topic of Joerger, Hollins said “yeah, y’all think he’s good, but I’m the guy who made him good.” He also said that “this thing puts [Joerger] in a bad light around the NBA” for being disloyal." Which, I mean, Joerger hasn’t said a single thing publicly bad-mouthing Lionel, or taking credit for Hollins’ successes, so which one of these two guys is the one being put in a bad light?

Maybe it’s the one who just used a radio interview to say that the guy he’s competing with doesn’t deserve the credit he’s getting.

I love Lionel Hollins. I think he’s a genuinely good guy and I think he’s a great coach who gets his players to play hard every single night. I just wish sometimes he’d think a little more carefully about what he says, and not take to the media to voice his displeasure—especially in the middle of contract negotiations that have apparently stalled.

Sometimes keeping it real goes wrong. Again.

You can hear the podcast of the interview here. (The interview starts 22-ish minutes in.)


  1. To me, of course, the main issue with bringing Hollins back after this year has always been that he’s going to want a contract of three seasons or longer. I don’t think that’s going to work with the Griz organization; I think that’s too long, because at some point in the next two or three years, the roster is going to have to be retooled around Mike Conley and Marc Gasol and it might take a couple of years to straighten that out. It’s not certain that Lionel is the guy to rebuild the team, and that’s why the Griz are (understandably) hesitant to bring him back for that long of a deal.

  2. Combined with taking shots at Chris Vernon and the Memphis Flyer’s Chris Herrington, of course, saying they must “want to contribute to [Hollins] leaving Memphis.” Which, I dunno. Vernon might, but Herrington is always level-headed and has publicly stated that he thinks Hollins should’ve been given a two-year extension.

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