It’s final and official. After a series of meetings, the Memphis Grizzlies have opted not to renew the contract of their head coach Lionel Hollins nor give him any new offer. Hollins led the Memphis Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals this year where they were swept by San Antonio.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper was the first to report Monday night that Hollins’ contract would not be renewed.
Grizzlies assistant coach Dave Joerger, sources said, is the overwhelming favorite to succeed Hollins, who departs in the wake of a 56-win season and the franchise’s first trip to the Western Conference finals.
In the wake of the most successful season in franchise history, Memphis has nonetheless decided that what has widely been described as “philosophical differences” between the team’s new owners and Hollins has necessitated a change on the bench.
Sources say the Grizzlies have been evaluating other candidates, including freshly ousted Denver Nuggets coach George Karl and former Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry, but are leaning very strongly toward replacing Hollins with Joerger, who essentially served as the Grizzlies’ defensive coordinator under Hollins.
After Memphis’ playoff elimination and a subsequent breakdown in negotiations on a new contract with Hollins (whose current contract expires June 30), Memphis gave Hollins permission to talk to other teams, with Grizzlies officials concluding that their ongoing hot-and-cold relationship with the 59-year-old can’t support the idea of a new long-term contract.
Sources say the Grizzlies feel Hollins, despite Memphis’ considerable success over the past three seasons, is not prepared to foster the sort of collaborative relationship the Grizzlies’ new management team — led by majority owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien — wants to have with its coach. Questions about Hollins’ willingness to work under Pera and Levien have been in circulation since late January, when Hollins publicly criticized the trade of Rudy Gayto Toronto on multiple occasions.
Hollins, however, said in a recent radio interview on 560 AM in Memphis that he “never knew there were philosophical differences” with management and insisted he was determined to stay with the Grizzlies.