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Twitter went nuts a few hours ago when news broke that Lionel Hollins was granted permission to speak with other teams about their coaching vacancies. This was a complete 180° turnaround from their previous stance, which made it seem likely that Hollins would not be allowed to speak to other teams until his contract expired at the end of the month.

So…what brought about this change of heart?

According to Adrian Wojnarowski (Yahoo! Sports), talks broke down last night, leaving the two sides far apart on issues. Various reports stated that they did not discuss money or years on a new contract, nor did they talk about the roster and personnel moves. So, what does that leave then?

As far as I can tell, all that remains is the philosophy for building a championship team.

We know that CEO Jason Levien and GM John Hollinger are proponents of using advanced statistical analysis to determine which players are best suited to making this organization a consistent force in the NBA. Given Memphis’s status as one of the smallest markets in the league, the front office knows they need every edge they can get in determining which players will fit into their system without being cost prohibitive. Advanced statistical analysis tells us things about these players that we would not otherwise have known. That was one of the biggest reasons for the trade that sent Rudy Gay to Toronto — his efficiency did not match his contract.

Of course, we also know what Lionel Hollins’ reaction to that trade was. He was very vociferous and adamant in his opinion about it. His diatribe about “champagne taste vs. a beer budget” was a nice follow-up to his remarks earlier in the seasons about not having much use for “Moneyball”-style statistics and openly questioning how many championships the Oakland A’s had won. He also complained about no longer having a backup center after Marreese Speights was sent to Cleveland along with Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby in a salary dump designed to get the Grizzlies well below the luxury tax prior to next season.

I think it is safe to say that these two sides don’t really see eye-to-eye on how to construct a team. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either, since organizations need a variety of viewpoints to help keep everything in perspective. However, there is a big difference between voicing a difference of opinion and openly questioning your front office to the media.

All of that being said, let’s not write the Lionel Hollins in Memphis obituary just yet. As Sam Amick pointed out on Twitter, these two sides are in something of a trial separation right now. They’re going to “talk to other people” and put out some feelers to see what is out there. What’s interesting is that this really boils down to both sides trying to see which one of them is bluffing.

Lionel Hollins has overseen this team’s rise from cellar dweller to playing in the Western Conference Finals. As much as anyone else, he can claim responsibility for the Grit and Grind mentality this team has adopted, since it is a direct reflection of his personality during his playing days. He went from being perceived as a low-cost stop-gap to being seen as one of the best coaches in the league by many. This is his leverage in this negotiation.

The new front office, headed by former agent Jason Levien and highlighted by former ESPN stats guru John Hollinger, has their own leverage though, in the form of lead assistant coach, Dave Joerger. Joerger is the architect of the Grizzlies’ defense, has been with the organization for six years, and has some impressive credentials of his own, having won titles in the CBA as a head coach. His name has been bandied about for potential head coaching vacancies the last few seasons, and many find it surprising that he hasn’t been hired away already.

So, what will happen now?

I think what is most likely to happen is that Hollins will find out that his options aren’t quite as grand as they might seem. With the Suns, Bobcats, and Bucks all hiring coaches already, that leaves the Clippers, Nets, Pistons, and Sixers as the remaining openings. Reportedly, the Nets have yet to even express any interest in Hollins, which means that Mikhail Prokhorov’s checkbook is no longer the big leverage it seemed a couple of days ago. The Clippers…well, Donald Sterling has never been known for throwing money around, so that’s not a destination with overwhelming appeal either in terms of a contract. That leaves the Pistons and Sixers — both of which have talent, but some big question marks on their rosters, as well. Suddenly, Memphis looks better and better.

In the end, the Grizzlies’ front office is still holding the best cards in this game. They have a worthy successor already in place in Joerger, as well as the probability that Hollins won’t be able to command as large of a contract as previously assumed. So, if he is willing to stay and accept the way that they intend to run this franchise moving forward, then I believe they would welcome him back. After all, he’s the most successful coach in Grizzlies’ history and the team just went to the Western Conference Finals. However, there is a case to be made that it is simply time for the two parties to part ways. We’ve seen that happen in Memphis before with coaches like Mike Fratello — a successful coach who ultimately wore out his welcome. I don’t know that there is only one “right answer” to this issue.

Hollins deserves a raise. He also deserves credit for what he has done with this team. Yet, the front office also deserves to run the team as they see fit — because it is their team. Whether Hollins is retained or the reins are given over to Joerger, it doesn’t have to be a “your side vs. my side” issue. There is plenty of room for debate all of the way around. Just have to keep our fingers crossed that it all works out in the end for Memphis.

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8 Responses to Latest on Lionel Hollins

  1. HPTMattNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve thought all season that the Grizzlies would lose either Joerger or Hollins this summer, but that there was no way they’d let both of them go. Should it unfold that both of them wind up staying, all the better.

  2. Bar545No Gravatar says:

    Take Detroit off the Board it seems Mo Cheeks a former teammate of Hollins in Philly will be the next coach of the Pistons. As for who the Griz should hire , my vote is for Jerry Sloan who is used to coaching in a small market and the Griz have the Personel to run the UCLA offense.

    • Red ColemanNo Gravatar says:

      Jerry Sloan has given no indication that he desires to return to NBA coaching, and his age (71 years old) is a valid concern for a team looking to the future. The Bucks went to him to inquire about him coaching in Milwaukee, and he was not swayed by their interest. I’d rather see Joerger get a shot.

      • Bar545No Gravatar says:

        Red part of the reason that Jerry wasn’t interested in the Bucks job is that its a rebuilding type of job where as the Grizz are a Championship contender . They have most of the pieces in place. Sloan doesn’t want to wait 3-5 years to compete for a championship.

  3. Lee Eric SmithNo Gravatar says:

    Having spent some time up close with Coach Hollins this season, I’m guessing the “philosophical differences” may come down to he doesn’t want the front office telling him who to play.

    He’s said that wants no part of building the team — obviously that means he’ll offer his input on trades, FA signings & such — but his philosophy is that getting the players is the front office’s job, and molding them into a unit on the floor is his job.

    But I can also imagine a conversation where someone in the front office may have said something like: “Coach: These analytics show that overall the team performs better when Ed Davis is in the game with Marc Gasol. Can you play Ed more?”

    To which I likewise imagine Lionel Hollins telling said person to get the ^#*%(S out of his face with that. Lionel Hollins plays players based on merit and feel.

    I understand the front office wanting to build efficiently. I also wholeheartedly believe that you let the coach be the coach. What’s kinda ironic is that with his many years as a player and coach, I’m sure Hollins eye test give him much of the same information as Hollinger’s stats. Would be a shame if Hollins were not back on Beale next season.

    • btrautscNo Gravatar says:

      Big fan of Hollins. He is tough, old school, and commands a lot of respect. He has totally turned the culture of the team around.

      BUT. He was embarrassingly out coached in the WCF. Regardless of his opinions of advanced statistics (which is where the league is going – that is fact), he continued to play 2 complete non-3 point-threats for extended minutes together in the Spurs series (Prince & Allen), while blatantly watching 4 and sometimes 5 Spurs all have at least 1 foot in the paint on defense.

      That is stubbornness and lack of ability to adjust. It doesn’t matter how many times you try to duck-in with Zbo if there is a person 4 feet away in 3 directions. Everyone knew we had to have Bayless/ Quincy/ or Daye on the floor. We rarely even used Tony on Tony until late in the series.

      The Spurs coaching completely adjusted their style mid-playoffs to thump the Grizzlies, in a classic example of excellent coaching. True to his nature, Hollins bowed up, set his feet, and said this is the way I do it.

      And then we got swept.

      • Lee Eric SmithNo Gravatar says:

        While I agree there are other adjustments he could have made, we fans got caught up in the magic of the moment and got amnesia.

        What got us through the first two rounds were essentially strong offensive first quarters and/or avoiding long scoring droughts. The inability to score for long stretches plagued the team this year, gave many of us indigestion. That was my biggest fear going in against the Clippers — that we’d have long stretches where we couldn’t buy a bucket.

        But we soared through the first two series the way the team started the season — getting off to a strong offensive start and then holding onto a lead. Just like they did at the beginning of the season, they looked unbeatable. But the anti-scoring gremlin came back with a vengeance against the Spurs.

        I just don’t know what kind of adjustment Coach can make to make Zach hit a putback layup. Or a free throw.

  4. chriskf1No Gravatar says:

    This whole contract-talk breakdown story smacks of management trying to strong-arm Hollins. The Yahoo story by Woj smacks of ANOTHER round of ham-handed press leaks by Team Levien

    We’re supposed to believe that contract talks broke down this weekend over a practice-time event we are just now hearing about that happened “during the playoff run” (read: over 1 week and possibly as long as 1 month ago)?

    The new Management team wants someone they can control. They’ve had an idea that was NEVER gonna be Hollins since before the very first “meet the new owners” luncheon where a season ticket holder asked Levien SPECIFICALLY about Hollins contract extension and he dodged the question with an agent-speak non-answer. Hollins fate has probably been decided since the Gay trade debacle (not the trade itself but how it was handled).

    Still, Team Levien learned enough of a lesson in small-market backlash from the Gay trade to understand that they’re in for a public beatdown if they decline to offer the winningest coach in franchise history. So… leak a story that the coach is not a team player, give him permission to talk to others, and hope another team makes a fair-value offer that ‘poor, small-market, Memphis cannot afford to match.’

    So, while I will absolutely be heart-broken to see Hollins on another team’s sideline next year, the most disappointing aspect of this entire episode is that Levien continues to disrespect Griz fans’ sense and sensibilities… as he has done with Wallace, as he did with the Cleveland salary dump, as he did with the Gay trade, as he is doing with Hollins. Does he not know — or simply not care — that the fans can see through his silver-tongued double-speak and that it is going to turn people against his regime sooner rather than later?

    On-deck: How unfortunate it is that we had to trade Zach Randolph… but we had to get cap-flexibilty in order to re-sign Tony Allen, really needed another shooter, and wanted to get a 1st round pick since we didn’t have one in the upcoming draft.

    In the hole: Why the advanced metrics did not support matching the offer Tony Allen received from another team during free agency, but how thrilled we are with cap flexibility we’ll have to go get the backup Center we need.

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