Dave Joerger, We’ll Miss You
By now it seems everything that there possibly is to hear, read, or see about the implosion of the Memphis Grizzlies front office has already been put out there, and we still are unclear on exactly what happened.
Is Jason Levien really this awful person who is totally incapable of productively working with other for any length of time in basketball front offices? Maybe.
Is Robert Pera on a power trip and does not want to be shown up by some person he deems inferior to him? Possibly.
Is David Mincberg really trying to strong-arm his way into control of this organization that is in the middle of unprecedented prosperity and success? Seems overplayed but not out of the question completely.
Has this all been in the works for months and this was finally the tipping point, or was this an impromptu, kneejerk reaction by the young billionaire owner of the team? It seems to be the former, but no one could tell you that for certain. Do you see what I mean? The more layers of this story that are peeled away, the more complicated and complex it seems to become.
One person that people have not seemed too concerned about losing in all of this mess is rookie head coach Dave Joerger. This is the only coach in the Western Conference to win Coach of the Month multiple times (January and April). Joerger guided the Grizzlies to the team's third 50 win season in franchise history.
Everyone seems to always point to how reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol missed 23 games this season with a knee injury, but what one may forget is Mike Conley missed 9 games, Tony Allen missed 27 games, and Quincy Pondexter missed 67 games. And this team won fifty games in a Western Conference that has never had its playoffs teams combine to win more games in a single season than it did this year. Pretty astonishing to think about.
Now, does Coach Joerger deserve one hundred percent of the credit? Absolutely not. A portion of the credit must go to the players. They were the ones who went out there every single night and employed the concept we all love to call grit and grind. And grit and grind they did. Every night when the ball was thrown up at center court, one simply knew that the Grizzlies may be out manned; however, they would not be out toiled. Additionally, a certain amount of credit has to be given to the front office for going out and getting, not only Mike Miller in the offseason, but also Courtney Lee via trade and James Johnson from the D-League. Each of these three players was vital to the success of the season.
On the sidelines, though, one man kept this unit of multifarious players fixed upon one goal, and he may be as good as gone. During the season, references were made to Joerger's ability to shuffle lineups due to his experience coaching in Continental Basketball Association (CBA), International Basketball Association (IBA), and NBA Development League. In these leagues, rosters are fluid, and a coach must be able to adapt to personnel and roster changes frequently. Often times coaches receive very little to no warning that changes are being made, and he is simply expected to adept his game plan and style of play accordingly.
Well, this experience came in handy for the Grizzlies' first year head coach. Despite the ever changing availability of players, Dave Joerger was able to keep the ship not only afloat, but he was able to ride it to an exhilarating playoff run that was cut short at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now Joerger, a native of Minnesota, seems to be headed back to his home state to coach the talented but often disappointing Minnesota Timberwolves. Some in basketball circles view NBA head coaches as about as replaceable as the towel boy. While it does seem that coaches may not always have an impact, do you really think any ‘average Joe' NBA coach could have taken the 2013-2014 edition of the Memphis Grizzlies to the playoffs? If you do, then allow me to inform you that you are way off base.
Additionally, Dave Joerger brought with him more than just an ability to shuffle lineups; he brought a winning track record. In ten seasons coaching lower division professional basketball, he managed to win five championships and two Coach of the Year awards. Five championships in ten season is astonishing. Still think any coach takes this team to the playoffs?
The Memphis Grizzlies are losing a coach who has done a phenomenal job and had success everywhere he has been. They are losing a coach who left so many so optimistic for the future after just one season that ended prematurely. It is not official that Dave Joerger has taken the Minnesota job, but does anyone really think there is a chance in H-E-double hockey sticks that he would return to the organization in its current state? If there is anyone like that I have yet to meet them. A star on the rise in the coaching industry who will ostensibly slip out of the clutches of this team and fall into the wide open arms of another.