Many a furrowed brow was soothed today as Dave Joerger was officially announced as the Grizzlies’ next head coach. After an extended search, the ownership went back to what it knew in the team’s lead assistant coach, reportedly offering a 4-year deal with a $1.5m starting salary.
To those in the media and to the fans watching online, Joerger made a good first impression. He dispelled rumors of awkwardness or bad blood between himself and Hollins, and, while keeping their conversations private, said that he talked to Lionel recently and reaffirmed his respect for his former boss.
While Lionel was slinging mud and reeking havoc on his way out the door, Joerger stayed gracefully silent. And now that he’s had a chance to speak, he emphasized that it was his team now and he would bring his winning ways — 5 championships in 7 minor league seasons — to the NBA.
Levien reported that this was a very popular decision in the Grizzlies’ locker room. Joerger said he had been speaking and breaking bread with his players and that he assured them their relationship would be different now that he was the head honcho.
“I know what my voice is as a head coach,” he said. “These guys are about to hear it. I told Tony Allen, I love you guys, but if all I do is love on you, you’re gonna tune me out. So when you mess up you’re gonna have my foot up your butt.”
Levien was beside his new hire, supporting his own decision and paving the way for Joerger. After the presser was dismissed, he took to Chris Vernon’s radio show to answer some of the fans’ harshest criticisms. When asked why Joerger was the better choice than Hollins to coach the Grizzlies, he avoided a straight answer, but he did make a convincing case for the former.
“One thing about Dave Joerger is that he’s a winner. He doesn’t impose his own system on his players, he figures them out and then works a system around them. He’s a great communicator, he can relate to and inspire players.”
Levien went on to say that he hoped this was the beginning of a “collaborative culture” within the Grizzlies organization, and while some say the front office was looking for a “yes man” in a head coach, Levien insisted he wanted strong opinions and even arguments when it came time to make decisions.
Reaction to the event was mostly positive. One has to believe Memphis fans are just glad that it’s over, as without a head coach, things were starting to get stagnant. Joerger impressed in his interview with Chris Vernon after the event, speaking in depth about his strategy adjustments and broadly about his belief that the 2013-14 team will be a winning one.
For those wanting to judge Joerger’s first season against Hollins’ last, Joerger said they had every right to. But he also said that after his second year, the picture will get bigger and his accomplishments can be more fairly compared to his predecessor’s. Time will certainly tell – this will be a tumultuous four years in Grizzlies history, I assure you.