The Memphis Grizzlies have finally hired a new head coach.
To explore possible concerns about new head man Taylor Jenkins, as well as things to be optimistic about and more, I have enlisted the help of some friends. Joining me are GBB Associate Editor Jack Noonan, GBB Social Media Editor Matthew Preston, GBB Senior Writer Parker Fleming, and GBB Writer Lauren Harvey.
Let’s dive right in.
After hearing from Taylor Jenkins and Zachary Kleiman/Tayshaun Prince, do you believe he will truly get a long-term opportunity to build something in Memphis?
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax: Maybe I am being too optimistic, but I truly feel that this is a great step in the right direction. The Grizzlies went through an extensive process and say they have their man. Why not, after all the time and resources spent, make your best effort to make this, using their language, “partnership” work? What it means to be a Grizzly will take time to develop again - he actually might get that shot, given what was said by Prince and Kleiman.
GBB Associate Editor Jack Noonan: In a word, no, but that is not because I do not take Kleiman and Prince at their word. The coaching industry is so fluid that no job is really safe. I think that Coach Jenkins will be given all the tools to succeed, but the reality of the situation is if he fails or does not show he is ready for a coaching position at the highest level after a year or so, he will be fired and replaced.
GBB Social Media Editor Matthew Preston: I think, on paper and in theory, we’re seeing the foundation being set for a modern approach to running a franchise where the front office, coaching staff, and locker room actively collaborates with one another. I think Jenkins was carefully selected and checks so many boxes (willing to work with the FO, player development, young) that he should get a long-term opportunity. That said, you never know what’ll happen in the course of a season and the impacts that will result.
GBB Senior Writer Parker Fleming: I truly believe he’ll get a long-term opportunity to build something in Memphis. I don’t see Kleiman and Prince stressing the idea of building for the run if it didn’t come straight from Robert Pera’s mouth. Hopefully, they’ll stick to their word and let Jenkins grow alongside potential stars in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant.
GBB Writer Lauren Harvey: I think so. Keep in mind the goal for this franchise as recently as last season was to maximize Marc and Mike and be competitive for as long as possible. That is no longer an option and the pivot to developing young, exciting talent should give Jenkins a longer leash than Fizdale or Bickerstaff had.
What about Jenkins has you most excited for his arrival?
MULLINAX: To be honest, his passion. Some would take him tearing up about his “brothers in basketball” at the press conference as cheesy, or fake. Not me. When you live for something, eat, sleep, and breathe it...it becomes personal. It’s not just business. That’s hard to fake - Jenkins was very genuine in his appearance. As long as he stays that way with his players, they will respect him.
NOONAN: I am most excited for the offensive schemes I believe he will implement. He has learned from under Mike Budenholzer for a few years now, and he will hopefully bring that mindset to the Grizzlies offense. This will include a higher paced offense with more three-point attempts. He will have everyone shooting if given an open look. One other thing that could fit perfectly with this new Grizzlies’ roster is Budenholzer’s point guard dominant offense. He has the point guard take over ball handling and go downhill with it every chance they get. Ja Morant could fit perfectly in this type of system.
PRESTON: I think his arrival portends to a beneficial ego death at the coaching position that’ll allow him and the franchise as a whole to elicit the best talents within their teams to achieve goals that more individually-minded people previously in those positions were preventing. Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of functionality as an organization.
FLEMING: Where Jenkins comes from is easily the most exciting thing about his arrival. Mike Budenholzer has been one of the most brilliant coaches in the past half-decade, and his coaching tree has experienced moderate success so far in the NBA, as Quin Snyder and Kenny Atkinson have done a stellar job building an outstanding culture and integrating Bud-esque principles in their systems. With Jenkins, it’s so exciting to see what he can do with a modern big like Jaren, an explosive point guard like Ja, and youngsters with role player upside like Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, and Jevon Carter.
HARVEY: His pedigree. That’s really all we have to go off of with someone with as little head coaching experience at any level as Jenkins. That said, Kevin Arnovitz and Mike Budenholzer have both vouched for his organizational and player development acumen, traits I would put at the top of the list I’d want in a coach overseeing an organizational rebuild.
What concerns you most about Jenkins moving forward?
MULLINAX: The ghosts of Grizzlies past. No, I don’t expect Chris Wallace and J.B. Bickerstaff to pop in and terrify people. But the impatience that has been shown in the past - and the lack of real direction - is cause for concern, especially for folks that see Zachary Kleiman’s “arrival” as de facto GM as merely rearranging furniture and not real change. An investment of time would be a sure-fire way to prove this is a new day in Memphis Grizzlies basketball - unfortunately, proving that will take...well...time.
NOONAN: The concerns I have about Jenkins is his lack of experience. I first want to say that I am glad the Grizzlies went this direction by bringing up a fresh face as opposed to a retread of an old coach. By saying that, however, I do fall into the worry that we have never seen him in this situation before, and, in all reality, the moment could be do big for him. He has had a great amount of experience as a G-League or assistant, but that could cause for a long learning curve for him in this position.
PRESTON: His resume is weird, and he didn’t play hoops past high school. But what concerns me most is that he’s a big question mark as a head coach. Fear of the unknown.
FLEMING: The concern with Jenkins, and every assistant coach getting his first job, is whether or not he can handle being the head honcho. He’s gotten to learn from one of the NBA’s best, but can he take command and instill those principles in his system? Better yet, with a rebuild inbound, can he avoid building a losing culture that’s tainted the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns for years?
HARVEY: Lack of experience is an obvious concern. There’s no way of knowing how Jenkins will respond to the first rough patch of the season or the first spat with a player. There will be growing pains for sure but the hope is that Jenkins has been around enough smart and capable people to prepare him to be a head coach in the NBA. We will find out soon enough.
What kind of assistants do you want to see on Jenkins’ staff?
MULLINAX: First and foremost, former players. That can be guys they already have been publicly linked to - Jarron Collins, for example, as a lead assistant - as well as people they weren’t connected to, like a Becky Hammon. From there? Anyone experienced as a head coach at any level of basketball college and up. Jenkins needs a collective behind him that’s been through some fires on and off the court. Like Tayshaun Prince, any former player backing him up with his vision will add credibility.
NOONAN: My first thought would be to bring on any assistant coaches that have the experience either as assistants already or as an NBA coach themselves. It is important to have a strong support system as Jenkins begins his new journey in this league. Also, I would key in on the staff having a defensive background that Jenkins could learn from. His past record has coaches that have more notable offenses than defenses. A defensive-first staff will help him balance out both phases of the game.
PRESTON: I‘d like to see a mix of similarly young coaches with fresh ideas, modern approaches, and the ability to develop players, as well as some former players (that aren’t too old school) to lend credence to the new coach and the new approach.
FLEMING: I’m not picky about what kind of assistants I want to see on Jenkins’ staff. As long as they’re the best ones for the system, that’s fine with me. If I had to give “criteria,” I’d have someone with either long-time assistant coach experience or short-term head coach experience, a former player or two, and a young coach that could be the first branch of the Taylor Jenkins coaching tree -- which would be me...hire me, Taylor.
HARVEY: Assistants that he trusts and buy into his vision for the team. This rebuild will only work if the front office, the coaching staff and the players are all on the same page. If Jenkins surrounds himself with assistants that support him and believe in him he will be successful.
Thanks to Jack, Parker, Lauren, and Matt for joining me! On Monday four new GBBers will tackle the NBA Draft.