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5 Questions with The Dream Shake: New Head Coach Edition

What can Grizzlies fans expect from JB Bickerstaff, head coach? We got some answers from someone who’s lived what the Grizzlies are currently going through.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

In case you've been living under a rock, David Fizdale is out as Grizzlies head coach. To take his place, the Grizzlies have selected associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

I'm sure plenty of Grizzlies fans are wondering just what they should expect from this change. After all, it's in the midst of the season, and there's been no offseason and preseason to adjust to a new staff.

Fortunately, this isn't the first time this has happened, as Matt Moore (aka HP Basketball) points out.

J.B. Bickerstaff previously took over for Kevin McHale when he was fired 11 games into the Rockets' disappointing 2015-16 season after their appearance in the Western Conference Finals.

So, to get a little insight into what we should expect in the coming months, we reached out to Ethan Rothstein, the managing editor of SB Nation's Rockets page, The Dream Shake. Ethan was kind enough to answer some of our questions about Bickerstaff's time at the helm of the Rockets. Check out what he had to say below.


1. When Bickerstaff took over for McHale, were there any wholesale scheme changes, or did he simply run the offense/defense McHale had used?

When Bickerstaff took over for McHale, one of the main complaints about his predecessor was that the Rockets seemingly had no scheme. They appeared to run nothing out of timeouts and the offense was lots of dribbling and not a lot of ball or player movement. We'd learn later (and assumed at the time) that much of this was because of Dwight Howard's locker-room-cancer ways, but nothing changed in the transition from McHale to Bickerstaff. The team had a brief Dead Coach Bounce but was maddeningly inconsistent all year.

2. What would you say Bickerstaff's best quality was as a coach?

He seemed to have the best interests of his players at heart. The team hated playing with each other and was an NBA laughing stock as the year went along, but Bickerstaff never called anyone out by name or did much to make waves. He would chastise the team's lack of effort but rarely said anything that raised eyebrows or earned a fine.

3. What was his biggest weakness? Or, if you prefer, what did you have the biggest issue with during his tenure?

He had no creativity. The Rockets had a few interesting young players, and as the season sputtered, Bickerstaff used none of them. Lineup experiments were rare. Deserved benchings never happened. The season was destined for mediocrity and Bickerstaff put the team in cruise control, rather than trying to shake things up.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

4. We saw how quickly the relationship with Gasol and Fizdale soured. Do you think Bickerstaff is equipped to handle a star player who's proven to be somewhat difficult to manage?

I've seen no indication he's good or bad at that. Dwight Howard and James Harden didn't like each other, which was the Rockets' main problem. Gasol and Conley love each other and don't need a relationship manager. There was no ill will toward JBB on the way out from the locker room. Rockets fans, on the other hand...

5. Overall, do you think Bickerstaff is a good coach? Did he handle the situation well or poorly?

I think he wasn't a good coach for the Rockets, but that doesn't mean he can't be in the future. He's a solid guy with a solid pedigree. Players seem to respect him and he has an old school upbringing. The jury is out, but he's certainly not a no-doubt blue blood young gun in the mold of Luke Walton or Kenny Atkinson.


Thanks again to Ethan Rothstein of The Dream Shake. Hopefully Bickerstaff learned from his time and can use those lessons this season with the Grizzlies.

On the bright side, at least the Grizzlies don't have the locker room chemistry issues of Dwight Howard and James Harden to deal with. That's a plus. I guess.

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