WHAT HOLY SHIT COME ONNNNN
Okay, now that we have that out of the way: this isn't a completely out-of-nowhere move. Some of the more looped-in Grizz writers have even expected it, and after Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Joerger had already been looking into coaching vacancies around the league after 2014's dalliance with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the reasons for a divorce are clearly there. It might even be reasonable.
Yes, there was tension between Joerger and the front office, and probably even between Joerger and some of his key players. Some reports have it that Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Mike Conley never took to Joerger's preferred uptempo style, and the Grizzlies would probably be playing a very different brand of basketball these days had that initial pushback not existed during Joerger's first few months on the job in 2013. But let's talk about tension.
The Indiana Pacers fired Frank Vogel (already being linked to the Grizzlies) earlier this week, after he got similarly shafted by a conflict with his team's front office. I wrote about that for Hardwood Paroxysm yesterday, and while that particular disagreement was rooted more in playstyles than closed-door relationships (although to a degree, they may not be entirely separable), my reaction is largely the same: when you have coaches like Joerger or Vogel, top-10 in all likelihood – and Joerger deserves nothing but praise for what he did with a team of replacements in the second half of the season – you had better tread carefully before deciding to fire them.
Erik Spoelstra, one of the league's longest tenured coaches with the Miami Heat for eight seasons, has gone to bat often against the currently high rate of coaching turnover in the league. Coaches need time and trust to affect their vision of a team, same as a front office, and when you have a good one, you shouldn't fire them at the first sign of trouble. That's something you should work past together to establish continuity in culture, which is probably what works out for the best.
Maybe after the Timberwolves fiasco, the Grizzlies were already past that point with Joerger. Disagreements in relationships are more nebulous than playstyle when it comes to how they manifest on the court, but if part of the reason that Gasol or Conley was playing at less than peak capacity early this season was due to discontentment with Joerger, than that would be a sign of a problem. More facts will come out later, but the Grizzlies would know better than I if that relationship was too far gone.
I just hope they tried, damnit. I hope this wasn't overly emotional, in that it clouded a real path back to an optimal relationship between coach and team, just because Robert Pera woke up one morning and decided that he'd had enough of Joerger bitching about Rodney Hood. I'm mostly Pera-neutral, but I wouldn't put that past him. To be sure, I'll say it again: that disconnect matters, and maybe the Grizzlies made an informed, correct decision that we'll eventually be crediting them for, but it can be a blurry line between the right decision and just an emotional one.
Joerger is too good to give up because of the latter, and maybe the leaks that sprung should've been plugged elsewhere. Maybe Joerger had a dream of an uptempo, small ball Grizzlies team, and the Grizzlies should've had a tough(er) discussion with themselves about acquiescing to that, whether it came to certain people getting over themselves. That means players, too.
I don't know. There are a lot of maybes here. It's real early, I'm cranky, and a coach I like I got sacked, so either way, I'm still going to be upset that it came to this. Time will tell if the Grizzlies are better off. I don't know if this makes Conley more or less likely to re-sign with the Grizzlies, or whether if he wanted Joerger out at all or will be driven away by the uncertainty. Maybe the Grizzlies sign Vogel and get to a happy place, although I wouldn't accept that as an excuse for rushing into a decision. (Is this too rational? Do I need a hot take? Do I need an actual take?)
Alright: the Grizzlies should throw all of their money at San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina. There are no spending restrictions, no salary cap of any sort on coaches, and even though the coaching market is jumping to Scott Brooks getting $35 million, five year contracts, I'm entirely okay with jumping the market even more. Messina is being groomed as Gregg Popovich's eventual replacement and he had a prolific coaching career in the Euroleague.
Messina is no sure thing, but I don't know that there is one. Even Vogel might not necessarily gel with the Grizzlies – Joerger clearly didn't. That's why, in a perfect world, you get over those squabbles and establish continuity instead of dipping your feet back into the market. Here in the real world, the Grizzlies made their decision. Regardless of whether or not that was the right decision, we've got to move on.
VINCE CARTER PLAYER-COACH, HERE WE COME.