HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The coaching vacancies in the NBA are suddenly filling up fast. Hours after the Denver Nuggets tabbed Brian Shaw as their new coach and the Los Angeles Clippers pried Doc Rivers away from the Boston Celtics with a future first-round Draft pick, the Memphis Grizzlies found their man as well.
They have elevated former assistant Dave Joerger to become their new coach, according to ESPN.com. Joerger takes over for his former boss, Lionel Hollins, who could be at the top of the list to replace Rivers in Boston. The Grizzlies zeroing in on Joerger, however, is a move that has been rumored for weeks:
Joerger, who has spent the past six seasons on the Grizzlies’ bench, will succeed his former boss, Lionel Hollins. Hollins compiled a 196-155 record after taking over for Marc Iavaroni midway through the 2008-09 season.
The 39-year-old Joerger emerged as a favorite for the position after Grizzlies management granted Hollins permission to seek other coaching opportunities. Before turning to their longtime assistant, the Grizzlies formally interviewed former Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry and Chicago Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney for the post, and also entertained the idea of bringing on high-profile names such as former Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl.
Prior to the 2010-11 season, Joerger was tasked by Hollins to oversee the Grizzlies’ defense, which was ranked 25th in efficiency in 2009-10. In the three seasons under Joerger’s direction, the defense has improved from ninth overall in 2010-11, to seventh in 2011-12, then ranked second in the NBA during the Grizzlies’ historic 2012-13 season.
Before arriving in Memphis, Joerger coached in the International Basketball Association, the Continental Basketball Association and the D-League, where he won five titles in seven seasons as a head coach.
The fact that the Grizzlies passed on several more high-profile names, most notably Karl, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, says something about the confidence the front office has in Joerger’s potential.
He’s taking over a team that improved dramatically in each of the past five seasons. They reached the Western Conference finals this season, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
Hollins made it clear that he wanted to sign a new contract to continue coaching in Memphis, but a division between his style and philosophy and that of the analytics-focused front office did not mesh and Hollins was not offered a new deal.
Now we’ll see what Joerger, who is plenty familiar with the Grizzlies’ colorful roster, can do with this group that Hollins could not.