The Grizzlies are in a funk.
After starting 12-5 on the season they have won just 6 games over the last 20, like I said, they are in some kind of funk.
What happens when the losing begins? Naturally people start to point fingers, but as most would say, winning cures everything. The Grizzlies are not winning very much lately and more and more fans want head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to be let go. I see everyday on social media, people ask me questions about it for the Locked on Grizzlies show, it’s happening and its something that people really believe should happen as soon as this past Wednesday night. After the loss to the Detroit Pistons, Bickerstaff took an odd amount of time to make it to his post game presser, which is not normal, and people started to ask right away, “was he getting fired?”
The idea of firing Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff is something that more and more folks have attached themselves to. Unfortunately for this team, that wont fix the problems. The problems the Grizzlies are having this season are only marginally related to the amount of losses that they have amassed over the last few weeks.
It would be a terrible public relations mover for the franchise. In an era where the Grizzlies have not been able to keep a coach around for an extended time, they can’t afford to fire another coach. They have been through J.B. Bickerstaff, David Fizdale, and Dave Joerger in just the past four seasons. How can they possibly fire another coach not even halfway into his first season? J.B. Bickerstaff was the interim head coach last year, but this is his first full season at the helm of this team.
The problems are bigger than the head coach. If the Grizzlies were to somehow manage to swallow that pill of the public relations disaster that would come with firing Bickerstaff, what happens next? They would likely make Jerry Stackhouse the interim head coach for the rest of the year and then in the summer maybe they have a “coaching search” and find another head coach. What coach wants to come to a franchise where there is no stability? In a place if you have a bad couple of months you will just be removed because Memphis is a franchise that seems to do that all the time. Let me tell you who takes that position, a assistant on another team that is looking for his first head coaching job. The same way that Dave Joerger did, the same way that David Fizdale did, and the same way that J.B. Bickerstaff did.
Firing coaches does not solve your bigger issues that surround this team.
When the Grizzlies were 12-5, they had a lot going right for them. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were healthy for the first time in a long long time. Marc Gasol was playing out of his mind and better than he had ever done in his career. Mike Conley was playing like an All Star. Garrett Temple was playing more minutes than he ever has in his career while shooting better than he ever has before. Shelvin Mack was playing above every expectation that anyone had set for him this season.
Then Marc Gasol got hurt. Mike Conley got hurt and came back to earth. Shelvin Mack came crashing back to his career averages and never stopped falling - he got worse than what he was supposed to be as the backup point guard. Garrett Temple regressed to what he was probably going to be all year. The Grizzlies were playing with role players as starters and guys off the bench that probably had no business being in an NBA game (MarShon Brooks and Wayne Selden Jr.). They had guys playing way over their heads in terms of what they were supposed to be all along. Everything was going right at the beginning of the season...actually things was going way better than right, they were going exceptional. It was a best case scenario to start and now this team has started to show what it probably always going to be all along.
An above average-at-best basketball team.
Does J.B. Bickerstaff deserve some of the blame when if comes to offensive scheme, Jaren Jackson Jr.’s minutes, not playing Jevon Carter over Shelvin Mack? Absolutely, those things are all on him. Would the Grizzlies have a few more wins with Jackson playing over thirty minutes? They might, but there is no definite way to tell. If you fire Bickerstaff now, they only thing that will most likely change will be some of those rotations that people find frustrating, but that only gets you marginally better in terms of wins and losses for something that does long term damage to your franchise. The Grizzlies have several rookies and younger players on this team that they need to develop, changing coaches and schemes only serves to stunt that grow as they go through the year. How does Jaren Jackson Jr. continue growing if the coaching staff is in a near-constant state of turmoil?
Bickerstaff has had a rough start to his tenure as the head coach of the Grizzlies, but the front office did not set him up for success from the beginning. If you want to be mad or frustrated at someone, be mad at the front office, be mad at the organization that decided not to have a coaching search at all and hire an assistant with a losing record as an interim head coach. They started off on the wrong foot in the summer by not doing their due diligence and now the franchise has backed themselves into a corner. You could fire him if you want, but it does more harm than good in the long term.
For better or worse, the Grizzlies are stuck with J.B. Bickerstaff.