After interviewing high-profile head coaching candidates George Karl, Ed Pickney and Alvin Gentry for their vacant head coaching position, the Grizzlies promoted long-time assistant Dave Joerger to be their new head coach.
The team had parted ways with their most successful head coach in franchise history, Lionel Hollins, after disagreements with management – including ESPN stats guru John Hollinger - over the future of the team.
Joerger hasn't ever coached at the NBA level, and now he's expected to lead the Grizzlies in their hunt for an NBA title. His first season as coach will come only an offseason removed from the team's farthest playoff run in franchise history last year when they appeared in the Western Conference Finals.
The Commecial Appeal's Ronald Tillery relates what Joerger told MVP season ticket holders at the FedEx Forum early this morning about his new team's chances next season and what it's like to finally coach an NBA team of his own:
On the biggest difference in being a head coach rather than an assistant this summer:
“The head coaching part of it I’ve gone through. Mentally, you’re always working on the next year,” Joerger admitted. “What’s different is all of the other things that come with it. The stakes are a lot bigger. There’s more media. It’s a bigger organization. Your time gets stretched more than any other time I’ve been a head coach and certainly as an assistant coach.”
On offseason improvements to stay up with other teams in the West:
“I feel like we addressed some of our team needs,” the new coach said. “We’ve added championship experience. We’ve added IQ. We’ve added shooting. We’re trying to grow from within. Those are all very positive. You better be ready to play in the West. Houston got better. Golden State got better. Minnesota got better. And the Clippers have definitely improved themselves. I also feel like we’ve kept up.”
On the Grizzlies' offensive struggles last season:
“We do some things really well offensively, Joerger challenged. "I don’t want to lose those things. I want to add to them. On the front end of it, I want to add more pace. I want to add more ball movement. With the ball movement comes a continuation of offense. The ball can’t stop. When there’s eight seconds on the clock, the ball can’t just come out (and get stuck in isolation). We have to keep going. I’m trying to push the basketball. Other guys are going to have to be able to make decisions with the basketball at times. The ball needs to move.”
On rotational differences compared to Lionel Hollins' approach last season:
“I like our roster. I’m hoping we’ve created depth,” said Joerger. “I’m hoping Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos keep growing. If they do that and have a good year this year, then we have some really nice depth. We need those guys to make shots. They’ve got to play. And I’m looking forward to having that. I know what Mike Miller is going to give us from the perimeter. Hopefully, those other guys have a big year. I want the bench to be successful. It’s a long season and the West is a gauntlet.”