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On “coaching searches” and missed opportunities in Memphis

Self-inflicted wounds are the worst.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies continue to find ways to shoot themselves in the foot.

Questionable processes in determining whether injury-prone players are worthy of a max deal?


Firing a head coach in the early parts of a season who was tasked with establishing a winning culture but couldn’t get a franchise player to buy into that vision?


Fail to trade an expiring contract asset for future assets for anything less than a certain price, raising the risk of losing him for nothing?


Reportedly hire a coach that has never been a head coach that has an interim record of 52-82?

Check...kind of.

This is not an indictment of J.B. Bickerstaff. Both situations where he has had an opportunity to be a head coach, Houston and Memphis, were different versions of dumpster fires, but dumpster fires just the same. Being given the opportunity to be the guy, as Shams Charania of Yahoo reports is about to happen, is a chance that many feel he has earned, including Grizzlies players. Marc Gasol, Chandler Parsons, Mike Conley...the list of public endorsements goes on and on. There is no evidence that he is a bad head coach that isn’t flawed in some way, shape, or form.

The problem is there is no evidence that isn’t flawed that he’s a good head coach, either. And there was no process, that we know of, in which other possible good and/or bad coaches were vetted or interviewed for the gig.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, Bickerstaff can apparently keep trash flames from spreading, but can he hold Marc Gasol accountable in a way that David Fizdale could not? Will he have the capacity to lead in ways Dave Joerger couldn’t, or work to please his superiors in ways that Lionel Hollins wouldn’t? What evidence is there to suggest that the numbers under Bickerstaff, which weren’t that much better than they were under Fizdale, will improve with Bickerstaff in full control?

There isn’t any.

While there isn’t sufficient information to make a judgment one way or another, Bickerstaff has earned a shot to at least stake his claim and argue his case. An interview process where he was the front-runner heading in makes all the sense in the world. The Grizzlies know him. The home court advantage, so to speak, may ultimately lead to him getting the job anyway.

But why hand it to him on a silver platter? What has he done to earn such an easy path to this job?

Why not meet with Mike Budenholzer, or at least try to? Steve Clifford? Jerry Stackhouse? Literally any of the San Antonio Spurs assistants? Up and down the NBA and college ranks (Villanova’s Jay Wright and Virginia’s Tony Bennett) there are candidates possibly available, ranging in experience levels and potential price ranges. Where is the hurt in interviewing with them? Picking their brains? Getting ideas on new ways to organize a practice, or set up a training camp, or complete a travel schedule? New schemes and ways of executing offensive and defensive philosophy? Why not see what they can offer compared to Bickerstaff?

So many reports of teams like the Suns, and the Magic, meeting with Ettore Messina and Budenholzer and Stackhouse and these other candidates...are those jobs that much better than Memphis that the Grizz have to stick with one guy, come hell or high water? The Suns are a better destination than a team with supposedly two of the best 30 players in the NBA? Has Bickerstaff sold you that clearly that he can do this gig, and if so, how? You’re that sure that he is better for Memphis than any other floated name on the current coaching carousel that you don’t even take meetings?

Why willingly devalue your organization by not even truly opening up the job? In a pivotal moment in franchise history, why take the path of least resistance with such an important role?

Well, the answer is simple. Because they don’t value that role.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the recent history of the franchise, they have shown they don’t value the position of head coach as much as other franchises do. It is partly why Dave Joerger left, and partly why David Fizdale is no longer here. Whether it’s input in the actual “culture” of the organization on the floor, or of the pay checks going into bank accounts, the Memphis Grizzlies front office has shown through their actions that they do not see this as a priority.

There is no set proof to suggest that Bickerstaff will be a bad coach. There is none to suggest that he will be a good one, either. There is, however, evidence to suggest that the Memphis Grizzlies do not want to pay for an established coach, and that they are willing to take unclear and logically flawed paths to get to that end destination. That is why this has occurred. Even when they miss out on a tremendous opportunity, even if Bickerstaff was always going to be the guy, to make sure he is “the guy”, they will stick with that philosophy.

So good luck to Coach Bickerstaff. He’s earned a shot. He just shouldn’t have gotten this shot so easily.

Hire a head coach that involved a “search” of almost certainly no outside candidates despite having an interim record 30 games under .500?

Check, and mate.

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