Any time that a change of ownership occurs, the expectation is that there will be several personnel changes as well. Sometimes, that means that players will be moved. Or maybe a coaching change. Or even that the business side will experience a shake-up. It also means moves within the front office.
Since the group led by Robert Pera bought the Memphis Grizzlies, virtually every single one of those things has happened. Rudy Gay, Hamed Haddadi, Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, and Josh Selby were all traded, and Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, Jon Leuer, and Austin Daye were brought in. We’re in the midst of a coaching change, as it appears almost certain that Lionel Hollins is on his way out and that Dave Joerger will replace him. The business side also saw people moved, as Jason Wexler was introduced following the departures of Greg Campbell and Mike Humes.
From the outset, the front office was already different, with Jason Levien taking over as CEO, and Stu Lash joining him. Then, Levien surprised many in the NBA community by convincing John Hollinger to leave ESPN and join the Grizzlies organization. In some respects, that left VP/GM Chris Wallace, the architect of most of this roster, on the outside looking in. So, it comes as little shock to us that, according to my sources with inside knowledge, Wallace will soon be named as the new general manager of the Sacramento Kings.
So, when (not if) Wallace leaves, and if Hollins is indeed gone, then that will represent the final portion of the changeover. The group that built this team that just came off of their third straight postseason appearance will no longer be in place. Instead, everyone involved will have been selected by Levien and Co.
There are quite a few people who have been upset about this prospect. They didn’t want Michael Heisley (glad to hear that he’s recovering, by the way) to sell to Robert Pera, the California-based 34-year old billionaire. Locals feared he would try to move the team to San Jose or Anaheim or Las Vegas. Instead, the team re-upped the lease with the city, assuring everyone that they would be in the (We Don’t) Bluff City for years to come.
Then, the player moves happened. Fans and media alike voiced their disapproval about the salary dump/trade with Cleveland that saw Memphis give up a first round draft pick. Coming on the heels of that, the Rudy Gay trade occurred, surprising many who had assumed that such a move was no longer necessary from a salary standpoint. They loudly proclaimed that the team would go belly-up, that they could not survive without Gay’s offensive abilities. Instead…the team posted the third-best record in the league after the trade, and went farther than they ever had before in the playoffs. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol matured and evolved into franchise-level players, and the team was more efficient on both sides of the ball.
Now, the big discussion is about changing coaches after the most successful season in team history. As I pointed out previously, there is precedence for an organization to make such a move — and for it to work out for them in the end. If Hollins and Wallace are both gone — as appears to be the case — then, nearly every position of importance will have been filled by someone approved by Pera/Levien. It’s their team, so it is their right to put the people in place that they believe are not only best suited for the job, but are on board with their vision on how to construct the team moving forward. And, if recent history is any indication, it will work out for the best in the end.
Whether you agree with them or not, it is hard to deny that Levien and Co. are very smart people who are taking calculated risks that have paid off so far. Much like Heisley’s much-derided “Three Year Plan”, no matter how many people said it wouldn’t work out, ultimately it proved to be successful. Hopefully, that’s what happens this time, as well.