What a mess.
After a season of turmoil, both with a slow start and a sputtering offense, and then followed by an Old Testament style injury plague, the Grizzlies' season came to an end probably a little earlier than most fans and the team expected before the season started.
After months of internal acrimony, the Memphis Grizzlies fired coach Dave Joerger on Saturday morning, league sources told The Vertical.
For the second time in three years, Joerger and his agent had sought Memphis’ permission to speak to other teams about head-coaching openings, league sources said.
The Grizzlies have stated that the reason former head coach Dave Joerger was fired was to "to foster the strong culture required to achieve sustainable, long term success for this organization, the city, and our fans". You might say that always looking around for another job might not meet that expectation.
Just from an outsiders perspective, it seemed like FHCDJ was unhappy with the way the team was built and unhappy by his role in building said team. And probably unhappy with his goatee, which was constantly in flux all season.
As it became clearer that Joerger wanted a more lucrative contract and a fresh start elsewhere, Grizzlies management cut ties with him. Memphis is starting its search immediately, and former Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel is expected to get considerable attention in the early stages of the process, sources said.
Frank Vogel is the big name out there, and if Memphis is serious about getting a good solid coach to work with what will be a group heavy on veterans next season, Vogel is a good choice. He will be expensive and in high demand, which is why the Grizzlies may have made their move today.
As far as who else they might look at, the list of the usual suspects will be up on the table (Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, George Karl, Alvin Gentry, and Mike D'Antoni). Personally, anyone they can grab off of the Spurs or Warriors coaching staff would be a fantastic forward thinking move, like Becky Hammon.
Memphis management considered Joerger an excellent coach, but it became increasingly impossible for the sides to continue working together, league sources said.
Memphis owes Joerger the $2 million guarantee on his 2016-17 contract, a deal that included a team option for the 2017-18 season, sources said.
It is unlikely that Joerger, 42, will be out of work for long. The Sacramento Kings have made him their No. 1 candidate and are planning to move quickly to secure a deal with him, league sources said. The Grizzlies sidestepped what could’ve been a lengthy negotiation with Sacramento about what would’ve turned out to be a conditional second-round pick as compensation for hiring Joerger, league sources said.
With the dismissal of Joerger, the Grizzlies can move quickly into a coaching search – and Joerger can get what he had been lobbying for – an exit out of Memphis.
Despite Sacramento’s inherent dysfunction, the Kings’ willingness to give Joerger a significant long-term contract – likely in the $4 million range annually – is a strong allure for a coach who spent 10 years making modest money in basketball’s minor leagues, league sources said.
Joerger had been seeking permission to speak to the Kings and Houston Rockets, league sources said.
Two things here. One was some of the scuttlebutt at the end of the season with the Minnesota Timberwolves job opening up. Some of the expectations would be that FHCDJ would be interested in that job, being from Minnesota and having interviewed for it in the past. So for a brief instance we got to talk about one of my favorite things in the world:
But it was not to be. Minnesota hired someone who will kill their young players, and as it turns out the trade would not have been worth much anyway.
Second, oh Dave, no. Sacramento. As a future mental health professional I have to ask you to take a step back and look at how insane that situation is. You really want in there??? Better get your money up front.
As trust eroded over the past several months, tensions escalated between Joerger and Grizzlies management. The organization was frustrated with Joerger publicly making disparaging comments about Memphis’ roster and his own role in player personnel, league sources said. Joerger had grown belligerent to many within the organization, an attitude that those close to Joerger described as a response to his own belief that management was setting him up to fail next season, sources said.
The relationship had become toxic, and recent weeks found both sides searching for a way out of the arrangement, league sources said. Memphis management valued Joerger’s ability as a coach, but wanted to set a course with a coach who shares a long-term vision with the organization, sources said.
Yep. Things were tense this year from the get go.
This next section is long and full of things we all knew but hoped weren't really true.
Joerger has expressed his displeasure with a series of personnel moves, including the 2014 drafting of Jordan Adams over Rodney Hood, and the 2016 trades of Jeff Green and Courtney Lee after All-Star center Marc Gasol was lost for the season. The Grizzlies have gathered draft assets and salary-cap space to replenish the roster around Gasol and Mike Conley, whom they’re hopeful to re-sign in free agency. Gasol is rehabilitating his surgically repaired broken foot this summer.
FHCDJ has been salty about that draft ever since it happened. And it appears at the moment he was correct. At the moment. Has this been Joerger's doing? We really can't determine that at the moment.
As far as the trades that happened after Marc broke his foot, I think you want your coach to be the one to keep trying to win night in and night out. I think that's why the players that were left respected him and played hard, despite being abjectly terrible. It's the FO's job to make plans for the season in the present and in the future. And their decision was to trade whatever tradable assets we the team had and look to next season.
As far as Mike Conley being re-signed this offseason, I think that's priority number one, and this move doesn't get done without running it by him in some form or fashion.
Joerger’s repeated and public criticisms of the front office wore on ownership and management, league sources said. Memphis fired Lionel Hollins in 2013 to promote Joerger to head coach, delivering him a contending roster and a premium first-time head-coaching job. After his first season, Joerger tried to make a financial score and become head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves – only to return to Memphis on a multi-year deal. Two years later, Joerger was pushing again to leave Memphis unless he was awarded another long-term deal, league sources said. That desire led to his dismissal, sources said.
As time wore on, Joerger didn’t believe that the organization took his opinion on personnel matters into serious consideration, league sources said. Within the front office, there was the belief that Joerger was always consulted on personnel moves and that he often only complained in retrospect about decisions, sources said.
In three seasons as head coach, Joerger was 147-99 (.598) and 9-13 in the playoffs. The Grizzlies reached the conference semifinals in 2015, losing to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. Joerger spent a decade in the minor leagues as a coach before reaching the NBA as a Memphis assistant in 2007.
This feels a little like Lionel not being re-signed three seasons ago. Except Lionel wasn't itching to go, nor was there a demand for him either. Dave is not as good with memorable quips with his complaints either (no champagne tastes on beer budgets). I wonder if they go completely anti-Lionel and go with someone who is anti-grit-n-grind culture.
Or maybe that's what they got with Dave and want to go back to it.
To summarize and end this conversation, I wholeheartedly agree with this statement.
Initial thought on Joerger's firing: I'm not sure what Grizzlies management is doing. That's not meant to be a negative or positive thought.— Andrew Ford (@AndrewFord22) May 7, 2016