According to multiple reports, Miami Heat Assistant Coach David Fizdale is about to get the opportunity he has been wanting for a long time. He is about to reach the pinnacle of his profession, leading the on-court product of an NBA franchise, guiding arguably some of the best athletes in the world in their pursuit of an NBA title.
Congrats Coach Fizdale, and welcome to Memphis. Now do you want the good news or the bad news first?
For you see, there is a little bit of both to be had here in the Bluff City. There are reasons why so many interviews were conducted for the position (aside from Chris Wallace perhaps attempting to expand his NBA rolodex) - this team and its core roster has been to the playoffs for several consecutive years and has advanced beyond the first round of those playoffs three times in that run. Success and Memphis are slowly becoming synonymous. Your new roster features former all-stars, a recent All-NBA First Team big man, multiple All-NBA defense award winners, and a fan base that continues to grow in both size and passion for the franchise. These are all good things.
On the other hand, all is not well in "Hoop City". There are a lot of questions with regards to that same roster we just spoke of so glowingly - that First-Team big, Marc Gasol? He's got a broken foot. One of those former NBA defenders, a key cog in the Grizzlies' machine, Mike Conley? He's an unrestricted free agent. The other two members of the "Core Four", Zach Randolph and Tony Allen? They are entering the last years of their contracts, and potentially their Grizzlies careers, as they approach age 35. This roster is about to go through some serious changes.
That doesn't even include the dicey Grizzlies Front Office. Chris Wallace is the public face and voice, and he has stated he will have the power to choose the new coach for the first time here in Memphis on multiple occasions, but who is really pulling the strings? How involved are Robert Pera and his advocates in Memphis, how much say does John Hollinger have, how active are the other owners in the decision-making process (if at all)? While the front office has made sound moves, the lack of perceived stability has stressed the ties that bind the fan base to the franchise.
Uncertainty abounds. That's the bad news. The good news? For a coach with the supposed talents of Fizdale, he should fit in nicely as the team starts to transition -
- He works well with veteran stars? Good - what Memphis' best players lack in star power they more than make up for in personality. Coach Fiz will have his hands full managing this eclectic roster in the short-term, but his experience with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, among others, will surely come in handy. Hopefully he starts with helping to convince Mike Conley that the Grizzlies' future is bright and he should be a part of it.
- He is an expert on player development? Good - no one currently on staff (or on the staff in the past 5 years or so, for that matter) seems to be good at that. The Grizzlies are about to go through a pretty big transition/youth movement these next couple of seasons. Any coach and their staff is going to have to be able to take younger players and help them along on the path to achieving their potential. Thankfully this is a reported strength of Fizdale.
- He has a solid resume of coaches he has worked for? Good - Erik Spoelstra is widely considered to be one of the top coaches in the NBA, and Fizdale was a key part of his staff. Also don't forget who runs the show for the Heat organization at large - Pat Riley, an all-time great coach himself. He's worked for coaches like Mike Woodson and others, and during his extended time as an assistant, has been exposed to multiple ways of winning basketball games. Any uncertainty about specific schemes should be quelled a bit by this; he can develop schematic ideas that fit what he has now, and can adjust as time goes on and the roster changes.
Dave Fizdale is the new man-in-charge in Memphis, and inherits a team and fan base that is used to winning. That is the good news. The bad news is that that is going to be tested, perhaps early in Coach Fizdale's tenure with the Grizzlies. This Summer is going to be instrumental in determining just how much success the Memphis Grizzlies will be having in the near future, and the first domino has finally fallen.
The Memphis Grizzlies have a new head coach. What comes next will be the fun part.