With Brad Jones being announced as part of Taylor Jenkins’ staff with the Grizzlies, it opened up the door for the Memphis Hustle to have their 3rd coach in as many seasons. In stepped former Grizzlies assistant Jason March, who spent 9 years in Memphis before tagging along with Dave Joerger for 3 years in Sacramento.
Back in Memphis, March has a tall task ahead of him in building off of last season’s success where the Hustle made their first ever playoff appearance and nabbed their first playoff win in the process. The Hustle’s new head man was kind enough to take the time to discuss with me the upcoming season and being back in Memphis in general.
What was the most enticing factor in returning to Memphis and becoming the head coach of the Hustle?
Jason March: I think just having a chance to become a head coach and running a team is enticing no matter where it is. Obviously, coming back to Memphis was a huge attraction. I was here for nine years, we lived in Olive Branch (Miss.), and both of our kids were born here. It is home for us. Coming back and being able to be in charge of a team, you can’t replicate that anywhere. Being able to do that and have that experience is something I’m really looking forward to. Being around Coach Jenkins is something that I’m really excited about - to learn some new things, be around him and see how he does things. He’s been very impressive so far in the things that I’ve seen. That has definitely played a part in it as well.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
JM: We want to build off of what Brad Jones did last year. Obviously, getting to the playoffs, we would like to continue that. He did a phenomenal job and is a heck of a coach, so there are big shoes to fill. We don’t want to take a step backwards. We want to keep developing the players and what we have going on here within the organization as far as what we’re trying to do with our team and our people. That’s a goal all the way around.
We want to play fast, we want to mirror what Coach Jenkins is trying to do with the Grizzlies, and I think that’s a huge part of our job. We also want to develop shooting and develop guys that are high basketball IQ players and fit into whatever system they are put into.
Yuta Watanabe was a solid player for the Hustle last season and really broke out in Summer League. What are your plans with Yuta this upcoming season and where do you see he needs the most improvement?
JM: I think Yuta had a great Summer League, and he’s a very unique player. He’s got size, he’s got length, and he can handle the ball well. Those things really catch your eye. I think as far as improvement, for him and anyone else who joins our team, it’s all going to be about shooting. We really want to be able to shoot the ball, top to bottom. That’s going to be a major focus of our development with every player. We’ll try to put Yuta in some different positions and different places on the floor to use all of the abilities and talents that he has at different times. Shooting will be the number one focus for him and just about everyone that we have on our roster.
This is your first shot at being a head coach in the league after spending a handful of seasons as an assistant. What do you anticipate being the biggest challenges for you and where do you hope to see yourself grow the most as a coach in year one?
JM: The biggest challenge will probably be just the unknown and having never coach in the G League before. The travel schedule and the rotation of the roster, getting used to those things will be different. Roster changes just don’t happen a lot in the NBA and when you start your season, most of those guys are going to be with you the whole way. That will be a difference with the Hustle that I’ll face. We’ve had players in and out no matter where I’ve been, but on a given night you never really know who is going to be with you and who’s not. But we’ll keep swinging and roll right along with it.
You spent 9 seasons in Memphis before spending the past 3 in Sacramento with Dave Joerger. What are you most excited about with your return to Memphis in regards to the food and social scene?
JM: The number one thing that I’m excited about in coming back to Memphis, and I know you said the food and social scene, is to work under Coach Jenkins and be around him. Obviously, the barbecue you really can’t get that anywhere else. A little thing for me is that I’m a big sweet tea fan. Not many places have sweet tea in California. There’s so many good choices around here and in the little time that I was gone a lot has changed. There’s more to offer in the downtown area for sure and then the surrounding areas as well. I love Gus’ Fried Chicken, it’s one of my favorite places and then of course all of the barbecue places are phenomenal as well. I’m ready to get back out and get some of this good food in me.
After talking with Jason, it was encouraging to see the emphasis on shooting and player development for this upcoming season. The Hustle seem to be in good hands as they aim to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Thanks again to Jason March for taking the time to chat with me about the upcoming season and Memphis in general. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter (@jasonlmarch) and follow along as he leads the Hustle into their 3rd season.