Just under a year ago Jason Levien announced he wanted a closed door policy with regards to front office decisions.
Lionel Hollins was not brought back as Head Coach because he didn’t play by the rules regarding the closed door policy. Lionel had been quoted making disparaging comments about the front office during and after the season.
Remember the quip “You can’t have champagne tastes on a beer budget” when the topic of trading Rudy Gay for cap space got out….
This type of comment (and others) didn’t sit well in the closed door policy world of Jason Levien. Levien felt that if you disagreed with a move you saved it until the doors are closed and you never air your dirty laundry in the press.
It sounded good on paper. Fight like cats and dogs behind the door but unified as far as fans and the media are concerned once the doors open.
Behind the closed doors, the team’s leaders, from the President of Basketball Operations straight down to the Head Coach, could work out their plans without having divergent opinions becoming public. This limits it appearing that the team had disagreements. They may disagree on how to get to the finish line but everyone was on board with the general path to get there.
Unity in public was paramount. Once the doors opened everyone was on board with whatever decision was made and they spoke unified behind that decision in the press.
Monday Pera opened the doors to announce Levien and his assistant GM Stu Lash were being let go. They closed immediately afterwards and Pera left town.
Did this happen because Levien took the closed door policy to include Robert Pera himself?
The rumor goes that Levien ran the team as if he was the owner instead of working for the owner. People in Memphis didn’t realize this because Pera is a very quiet man and Levien kept his door shut. Allegations of lies being told and a rumor of a distorted picture being portrayed on what was happening with the team have suddenly taken hold.
Whether or not these rumors are true is still unknown. Robert Pera flew off immediately after firing Levien and Lash. Lash and Levien aren’t talking either. No one has heard from them since this happened.
Chris Wallace has been announced as taking over the lead for the team in preparing for the draft, summer league and free agency period. The problem is Wallace’s contract expires at the end of June, which date comes after the draft but before summer league and free agency. John Hollinger is still around but he was clearly a Levien hire and, before we forget, it was Hollinger that upset Hollins so much last season at practice. With Lash gone, Levien gone and Joerger interviewing elsewhere, Hollinger is the only one remaining from the previous front office leadership group.
What’s most upsetting is the total surprise at the announcement. As far as Memphis Grizzlies fans knew, there was nothing wrong with the team’s ownership and front office. The player moves this season were generally considered excellent-from the James Johnson signing, to the Courtney Lee trade to claiming Beno Udrih off of waivers-the moves all benefited the team. The team struggled early with their new coach and injuries but were strong to end the season. Why blow everything up right now?
Surely it wasn’t simply a personnel issue that cost the team their President. The minority partners have all lined up in support of Pera. There must have been something going wrong.
It could have been a personality conflict. Levien has had trouble wearing out his welcome pretty quickly in Sacramento and Philadelphia. Was this just another example of his ego getting him in trouble? If not what was it?
We may not find out for a long time. The doors are closed again and no one is talking much. That’s the problem with a closed door policy. You don’t hear about the internal squabbles even after the results go public.