It’s hard to find a movie with a protagonist and and an antagonist, without a key moment where the villain says to the hero something that conveys that, no matter what public perception says, we are not much different from each other. Likewise can be said when you actually step back and look at the former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and the current head coach, Dave Joerger. As a disclaimer, this edition of “Noise From The Sain Asylum” is not an attempt to justify Hollins not having his contract renewed or to make Joerger a scapegoat for us currently being on the outside looking in of the playoff race but simply an attempt to share some of the similarities of the two especially in the areas that frustrate us the most as fans.
One of the early expectations about Coach Joerger when he was announced to replace Coach Joerger was that he would be more willing to use advanced analytics to determine the best roster combinations, to make his rotations efficient as possible as opposed to coaching on feel which is something that Coach Hollins obviously was more of a fan of. So far this season, I have seen little to no evidence that Coach Joerger uses analytics to build his rotations and, if Hollins used the analytic reports to line his kitty litter box, then I don’t think Joerger uses them for much more than a place mat for his lunch. Joerger coaches on feel as much as any other coach does in my opinion. His rotations get just as frustrating as Hollins’ were, and both have thrown out some odd lineups to close out games as well as showing a bad habit of keeping certain lineups on the court for too long to our detriment.
Head-Scratching Player Preferences
Most NBA coaches have players that they make an early effort to hitch their wagon to and show what comes off as mysterious loyalty to. That player that makes you say “well, you know coach is gonna ride with his guy no matter what.” This also results in certain players appearing to be in the coach’s dog house or that the coach has a personal vendetta or trust issues with said player. Fans scratched their heads when Hollins would play Arthur for significant minutes instead of trying to develop Ed Davis last season. The same thing happened with playing Keyon Dooling instead of playing the then-backup point guard, Tony Wroten. Hollins also seemed to have an “anybody but Tony Allen” way of thinking — especially when he made an end of the season announcement that if Quincy Pondexter supplanted anyone in the starting lineup, it would be at shooting guard and not small forward. Even looking past last season, we all recall him wanting to play Sam Young and Xavier Henry over both Allen and O.J. Mayo. Joerger is definitely guilty of this as well. Even though it made more sense in the beginning of the season, Joerger annoucnced in training camp that Tayshaun Prince would be his starting SF and Jerryd Bayless was his backup PG. Fans on the contrary were looking forward to the potential “3&D” man who was fresh off of a hot shooting playoff series in Quincy Pondexter and a player for whom the front office had put a lot of eggs in his basket, Nick Calathes. Most fans still don’t understand why Prince starts over Johnson and now Allen and are equally perplexed when Miller is the first wing off the bench to replace Prince instead of Johnson. If Arthur was Hollins’s favorite and Tony Allen was his goat, Joerger definitely has Mike Miller and James Johnson respectively. One thing that I can definitely say is that both coaches prefer dependable veteran players over the unpredictable “Trick or Treat” types.
The fact that Joerger was Hollins’s lead assistant gives credence to the notion that more rubbed off on him than he might want to admit, and that Joerger learned a few too many “not to dos” from observing Hollins from the sideline over the years. Even though Joerger is nowhere near as abrasive in the media room during post game interviews, he is still just as set in his ways as Hollins was — even to a fault. He does some things that seem like the only reason or in doing so is to show media and fans that they are not changing his mind or actions simply because he is being criticized. Hollins had too many of these to name, but Joerger’s latest example is the recent desire to play a 9-man rotation on what arguably is the deepest Grizz team ever. Although Hollins would routinely give reasons why he wouldn’t put Tony Allen on the opposing team’s best perimeter player regardless of position, which is something that Joerger does differently, its also just as frustrating that we don’t see more of James Johnson at power forward, more of Kosta Koufos and Marc Gasol together and simply just more Jon Leuer period.
Of course fans will have their own preference for who they want to coach this team not only for this season but going forth and that’s understandable. Just understand that in this epic story of good vs. evil, in a tale that at one time divided our city and its fanbase that no matter who you think is the hero and who you think is the villain, both coaches have their strengths and weaknesses. Even though Joerger came out of training camp wanting to have a more uptempo offense, we are still a team that wins because of inside play and lock down defense. Joerger’s offense is more innovative and much easier on the eyes in my opinion, but he still uses a majority of the base offensive sets that Hollins used as well. We are a little less muddy and have a few more scorers and shooters, but there are still games where we look like the same old Grit ‘n Grind Grizzlies. Just remember Grizz Nation that in this tale of two coaches, in the end they are not as different as you may think.
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