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David Fizdale: The Right Man for the Job With the Memphis Grizzlies

He’s only been the Grizzlies’ head coach for about five months, and already Memphis has felt David Fizdale’s impact.

NBA: Preseason-Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Any coach worth his salt will tell you about it.

Alabama’s head football coach Nick Saban detests it.

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a variety of quotes about how infuriating it is, at every level of competitive sports, from high school to college to the pros.

It’s even hard for me to type...


Did you feel that? It was me smashing my fist into my keyboard as I wrote the word.

To coaches, there’s nothing worse than being complacent. When complacency settles in, stagnation is sure to follow. There is no more improvement - only satisfaction over a job well done but not yet complete, or worse yet a sense of apathy. Nick Saban puts it pretty well:

You try to avoid complacency. When you have success, people think I’m supposed to get some time off…They start to resent the hard work. They start to question some of the principles and values that helped them become successful.

Now if there was ever a coach that ever earned a bit of complacency, it’s Saban, who is arguably the greatest coach in the history of college football. But this man is famous for recruiting on the plane ride home from the national championship game. He never stops. He’s never satisfied or comfortable. His eye is to the next obstacle, and when his teams have failed he often points to complacency as the main culprit.

Enter the Memphis Grizzlies, who have gotten quite comfortable of late. Six seasons of playoff appearances can do that to you. From Lionel Hollins to Dave Joerger, coaches trotted out similar rosters and similar schemes and allowed for the team to be the team. You could expect Zach Randolph to start, shoot jab-step jumpers, and not defend consistently, or for Tony Allen to be his “trick or treat” self, without repercussions.

Marc Gasol comes out flat? Meh.

Mike Conley goes under a screen that perhaps he shouldn’t have, or doesn’t play with enough energy? Meh.

It isn’t just those four. The list goes on and on the past few seasons. How much accountability has there been for these players? It’s not their fault if they’re allowed to have such a voice in the process - Dave Joerger tried to change scheme and pace when he first got the Grizzlies head coaching gig, and there was a blatant and drastic resistance to it. It got to the point where, even though he probably disagreed with the idea, he went along with what the players were “comfortable” with. He stayed the course, a course that led Memphis into a rut.

“Comfortable”. Yuck.

NBA: Preseason-Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

David Fizdale and his staff have made it clear that that will not be the case with him in charge. This first time head coach comes to Memphis from Miami, after being under the wing of great coaches like Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, and has already made his mark on this Grizzlies team. Zach Randolph is now a bench player. Marc Gasol has been told to shoot four three pointers a game. Mike Conley is being put at the forefront and being asked to coach portions of preseason games.

Comfort be damned. The time has come for some discomfort.

It’s time to get Zach Randolph ready for his next contract, as Fizdale himself has said, by showing what he can do as a second unit leader. It’s time for the offense to modernize. It’s time for the pace to quicken and for the players on the floor to get into their sets sooner. It’s time to do what Dave Joerger clearly couldn’t do.

It’s time to take control of this team.

David Fizdale and his staff remain a somewhat unknown commodity in several ways. Their schemes and philosophies on rotations, their plays out of timeouts, and their development expertise will all be revealed over time. But he’s already established that he is not afraid of the moment that has finally arrived for him.

He understands Memphis - his comments in the media and in forums about the current issues facing our country are honest and show a steadfast belief in himself and his values. He knows he cannot do this alone - he’s hired a staff including Keith Smart, Nick Van Exel, and J.B. Bickerstaff, coaches with NBA playing/coaching experience to support him. David Fizdale may lack experience as a head coach, but he more than makes up for it in his clear vision for what he wants this Memphis team to be in its current form.

The Grizzlies seem to have hired a man to get the most out of the present while helping build for the future. Considering where the franchise was just five months ago, that has to be considered a massive initial success. And perhaps the future is brighter than many thought was possible back in May.

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