There is a new era of Memphis Grizzlies’ basketball as the team fired Coach David Fizdale Monday afternoon. Associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will be promoted to the Grizzlies’ interim head coach.
Associate head coach JB Bickerstaff will be promoted to Memphis' interim head coach, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 27, 2017
Luckily for the Grizzlies, Bickerstaff has served as interim head coach before with the Houston Rockets during the 2015-2016 season. He took over for the Rockets after they fired Kevin McHale only 11 games into the season. In the 71 games coached, he went 37-34 while then going on to lose in the First Round of the Western Conference Playoffs to the Golden State Warriors.
Throughout his time in the NBA, Bickerstaff has been an assistant for the Hornets, the Timberwolves, the Rockets, and the Grizzlies signing on with Fizdale’s staff in 2016. He has shown promise as a head coach and will serve as a solid replacement with Fizdale gone. Looking around the league, Bickerstaff would be on the shortlist of the top assistant coaches.
For Memphis, there was not any other option to replace Fizdale, and he could potentially be the long-term coach moving forward after this season. With all the drama with Fizdale and Gasol, hopefully, Bickerstaff can try and pick up the pieces while pushing all that drama behind the team. The Grizzlies are still in a free fall right now, so the team needs someone to take control and insert a winning attitude to this locker room.
Bickerstaff can be that guy.
Bickerstaff’s Houston Tenure
In Houston, Bickerstaff implemented his style of Pace and Space basketball. It was the season where the number of 3-pointers really exploded league-wide. That season the Rockets were 2nd in the league in 3-point attempts per game at 30.9. They were 4th in points per game (106.5) and 7th in pace (97.6). However, in this style the defense took a backseat. Houston finished that year 25th highest average of opponents points per game (106.4) and were 21st in the league in defensive rating. This completely killed any hopes they had of going far in the playoffs, but it was also driven by that 15-16 Rockets roster. The memory of that team was underwhelming, to say the least. It impacted the defense that was played each night. The roster structure was definitely set up for offense first.
What Does This Mean For Memphis?
Over the years, we have seen the whole league behind the new wave of Pace and Space style basketball. Through Fizdale (and Bickerstaff on staff), Memphis has changed their ways as well while attempting to be up in pace and offensive production the last two seasons. Once the team comes back full strength, this will continue with Bickerstaff at the helm.
As for the defensive side of the ball, it is still a work in progress with this Memphis roster. Fizdale may be more of a defensive mind than Bickerstaff, but to be in a Grizzly uniform, the guys at least have to always think defense first (most of the times). Bickerstaff has hopefully adapted the schemes from what was thrown out in Houston.
Even though the Rockets team he coached massively underperformed, that does not completely fall on Bickerstaff. Their season was in turmoil right off the bat with the removal of the head coach 11 games in. Effort and leadership were two things missing from that Rockets roster which says more about the players.
At only 38 years old, a good finish to the season could result in Bickerstaff being hired on officially as head coach. He would be a solid, young coach that has been in the coaching business his whole life. If the team did go complete rebuild, a young face and new era coaching mindset would be a great start.
In the past, however, Bickerstaff, had taken in his name out of the conversation to be a head coach in the league. Multiple teams reached out to him after his stint in Houston, but he declined to take on a different role. He told Yahoo that after Houston, he was only turning his focus to other assistant positions. So, if that thought process remains, it may be hard for Memphis to sign him long term.
Either way, the Grizzlies will have plenty of games to decide on which direction to go with this team. Of the names available currently, Bickerstaff would have to be considered near the top.
Stats provided by basketballreference.com