The search is on for a new coach in Memphis, after the Grizzlies officially parted ways with Lionel Hollins.
One name to know is Dave Joerger. Joerger, currently the lead assistant coach for the Grizzlies, is considered to be the ‘overwhelming favorite’ to be the Grizzlies’ next head coach.
Modest interest in Joerger has existed for a while around the NBA, as he interviewed for the Bobcats and the Trail Blazers’ head coaching jobs last season. The Philadelphia 76ers are reported to have interest in him as their new head coach to replace Doug Collins.
Joerger is perhaps most well-renowned for his success in the minor leagues. He has won three championships in the Continental Basketball Association (along with two Coach of the Year awards), one in the International Basketball Association, and most recently, one in the NBA’s D-League with the Dakota Wizards in the 2006-07 season.
Joerger’s main strength is his defensive scheming. He was largely responsible for the Grizzlies’ defense that finished first in the league in opponent points per game (89.3 per game), second in opponent three-point percentage (33.8%), and third in opponent field goal percentage (43.5%). While Tony Allen, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are among the league’s best defenders, Joerger deserves as much praise as any of them for the team’s success on that end of the floor.
What gives Joerger an edge with Memphis over more proven coaches would be his familiarity with the Grizzlies’ roster. Grit and grind is an identity for Memphis, and bringing in a completely new head coach could compromise that identity. With Joerger, the Grizzlies don’t have to worry about that.
Perhaps the most interesting storyline in a Joerger hire would be his views on advanced stats and analytics versus that of Lionel Hollins before him. Hollins didn’t support advanced metrics as much as he supported what he saw on the court. The Grizzlies front office, which most noticeably includes former ESPN stats wizard John Hollinger, regularly clashed with Hollins over the use of advanced stats.
Unlike Hollins, Joerger is known to support advanced stats. If he were hired, the findings of the Grizzlies’ number-crunchers could translate directly to the court under his guidance. This could mean more playing time for Ed Davis and Tony Wroten, and Quincy Pondexter replacing Tayshaun Prince as the starting small forward.
Joerger could also be much more lenient with playing his younger players compared to Hollins. Hollins was noted for being stingy with giving minutes to his young players. Wroten and Davis are examples of this from the past season, and players like Josh Selby, Greivis Vasquez and Xavier Henry all failed to play meaningful roles under Hollins in seasons before.
As a former D-League coach, Joerger is a very good development coach. 18 of his players were called up to the NBA from 2003-2007, and it’s not unreasonable to think that Joerger could trust his younger players with big minutes as a NBA head coach.
It remains to be seen if Joerger will actually end up as the Grizzlies’ new head coach. Former Nuggets coach and reigning Coach of the Year, George Karl, has seen his name closely tied to the position, and former Suns coach Alvin Gentry, Bulls assistant coach Ed Pinckney and even Celtics coach Doc Rivers have all been linked to the Grizzlies as well. Given his close ties to the organization and the fit that seems to exist for him in Memphis, however, expect Joerger to be in the hat for the position all the way until to the end.