After a two month process, the Memphis Grizzlies have their man.
That’s much better than a two-day, or two-week process.
While some saw their patience wear thin, this blogger stood firm. Where others started saying “do they know what they’re doing?”, I said “stay the course”. When some looked for reasons to say “same old Grizzlies”, I asked to give the “new guys” a chance.
Zachary Kleiman and Jason Wexler rewarded me.
Taylor Jenkins, the now former assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks, is coming to Memphis. And the 34-year old is coming with glowing recommendations.
Jenkins is a great teacher and is known for his work in developing players. That’s probably why the Grizz sought him out https://t.co/uK5Z0KqfhB— Bucks Film Room (@BucksFilmRoom) June 11, 2019
Milwaukee will miss new Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins. He’s a really smart teacher who knows it’s all about the players. He understands how to build, develop, and communicate. Given the young talent that will be on the Memphis roster, Jenkins is a stellar choice.— Kevin Arnovitz (@kevinarnovitz) June 11, 2019
Anyone acting as if they are a Taylor Jenkins expert is lying to you. But those in the know in the markets where he has worked and others in the national media who know something about his experience and strengths clearly have been impressed with what he brought to the coaching staff of soon-to-be two-time Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer both in Atlanta and with the Milwaukee Bucks. While a connection may have gotten him his start in the NBA (it’s been reported that his grandmother knew the owner of the San Antonio Spurs, which gave him his first internship), it was his work ethic and ability to teach and develop that has helped him rise the ranks of the NBA.
Were there other options? Of course - the Grizzlies interviewed six of them.
Was it the perfect choice? No, at least not in my eyes, but of the names listed he makes as much sense as anyone else.
But what matters more than the Jenkins hire is the follow through on it.
As anyone who follows this team knows, there has been far too much overturn at the head coaching position for the Memphis Grizzlies over the years. From Lionel Hollins to J.B. Bickerstaff and even beyond the last decade, Memphis has failed to invest in, and be patient with, coaches. It takes two to tango, of course - trashing your bosses usually will get you fired, for example. Yet still, whether it is with time or treasure (or sometimes both), Grizzlies brass hasn’t made the head coaching position in Memphis something they bought in to being vital to the organization.
That needs to change...and if not in terms of cost (chances are Jenkins isn’t breaking the bank in salary) then in terms of patience.
The young head coach must build a staff that is a mix of both experienced coaches and hungry up and comers, those that are former players and head coaches as well as analytical minds. He has to develop scheme that makes sense for Jaren Jackson Jr., (probably) Ja Morant, and whatever return Memphis receives in a (likely) Mike Conley trade. What he did with Bud in Atlanta and Milwaukee gives a window in to what we might expect - increased pace, more three point shooting and switching defensively, etc. That all takes times to develop and implement, however, and it will not result in winning basketball immediately, more than likely.
He also must rely on his front office and build an effective relationship with them. Tayshaun Prince’s role in this organization just became that much more important, for example. Kleiman and Wexler may have made a smart hire, but look around their front office and you’ll notice a trend - heavy on degrees and higher education, low on basketball playing experience and NBA lifers. Tayshaun can provide valuable insight and validation to the way Jenkins plans on implementing practice plans and game plans - a player can sit with Prince and hear why it;ll work from one of the better wings in the NBA the last couple of decades.
That will carry an immense amount of weight with young players...more than the words of Jenkins alone, in fact. But that relationship will not happen in a day, a week, or a month or two - it will take precious time to organically come about and not be forced.
The way the Grizzlies appear to be progressing, it seems as if they’re hopeful that a meaningful reboot of the franchise will pay dividends. The luck of landing the #2 pick in this top-heavy draft (at least that’s the perception) has opened up an avenue to a rebuild that perhaps would have been much more difficult to stomach if Memphis had just conveyed their first round pick owed to Boston this season. There’s an energy and excitement to the team that just wasn’t there two months ago.
That adds credit to the account of the Grizzlies, in a way...if they’re going to struggle, at least now there will be two young stars to watch grow, not just one. It bought them time to find the right fit for their coaching position...and now hopefully he will fit well alongside his front office and roster.
But will they continue to use the time their good fortune has likely given them?
The Jenkins hire is a step in the right direction, according to most accounts. He’s a teacher - he will need to be with a young team. He’s a worker - that will be put to the test on days where his roster is beaten down by the NBA’s elite. But given the way he’s come up in the NBA, he understands the league is about players. He has seen what works for Gregg Popovich, and more specifically Mike Budenholzer, and can apply those lessons to Memphis. His background allows for him to relate to those above him and perhaps make more of a connection with the city and front office than other head coaches have been able to do.
Is it a good hire? Yes.
Will he be a good head coach? Who knows?
Time will tell...as long as Robert Pera allows for it to.