Memphis Grizzlies: Takeaways from Taylor Jenkins’ Introductory Press Conference

Now that the Memphis Grizzlies have named a new head coach in Taylor Jenkins, what is there to expect from him?

Taylor Jenkins was formally introduced as the Memphis Grizzlies‘ head coach in a press conference at FedEx Forum on Wednesday afternoon. The 34-year-old first-time head coach, joined by Grizzlies Executive Vice-President of Basketball Operations, Zach Kleiman, and Vice-President of Basketball Affairs, Tayshaun Prince, spoke about their vision for the franchise, the hiring process, Jenkins’ background and coaching philosophies. Then he answered questions from gathered media members.

Before the floor opened for questions, Taylor Jenkins spent close to five minutes acknowledging family members, friends, coaches, and players who have helped guide, support, and shape him as a coach and person. More than once, he fought back tears or stopped to collect himself as talked about the support from his family, having the opportunity to coach under Mike Budenholzer and the bond he has developed with other coaches from the San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks, and Milwaukee Bucks staffs.

The press conference ran close to 40 minutes total and touched on everything from the current roster to coaching philosophies to his long-term vision for the team. Nothing Taylor Jenkins said was particularly salacious or groundbreaking but his words carried substance, were sincere, and emanated his passion for coaching and enthusiasm for the opportunity in front of him.

Every coach obviously brings a unique personality, communication style, and attitude. There is no set formula or approach for making a first impression, and as we have seen before with the Memphis Grizzlies, winning the press conference may or may not translate to winning on the court. That being said, I heard everything I wanted from a head coach listening to Jenkins. He cares deeply about the people around him, and builds relationships with coaches and players beyond basketball.

Jenkins is extremely intelligent, organized, and consistent in his message and approach. We will see and learn more about Taylor Jenkins during July’s Summer League action and obviously when the season starts this fall, but I came away from Wednesday’s press conference with the impression the Memphis Grizzlies have a head coach who is prepared for the stage, ready to embrace the opportunity, and committed to building a team for long-term success in Memphis.

The entire press conference can be seen directly below:

Other Takeaways

JJJ & Dillon

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks both attended Wednesday’s press conference. Taylor Jenkins acknowledged and thanked them for being there and he also fielded several questions pertaining to Jaren and one about Brooks.

Jenkins also noted that he had spoken to both on the phone the day prior. With Jaren Jackson Jr. in particular, he stressed how important his development at both ends of the floor would be to the team’s future success.

On a broader scope, he also touched on player development throughout the press conference. Taylor Jenkins talked at length about his belief in building relationships with his young players, really understanding what drives and motivates them and helping push them to be the best players and people they can be. He emphasized the importance of players taking ownership of their development as well as their teammates and holding each other accountable.

The fact that Jaren and Dillon had both been in contact with Jenkins the day he was hired and were both present for his introduction is a pretty good indicator for buy-in between a first-time head coach and his young players.

*Jenkins also mentioned that he and Jaren share a love of tacos, which they discussed during their first conversation. Apparently, Torchy’s Tacos is his go-to spot in Austin.

Jonas Valančiūnas

When asked about Jonas Valanciunas, Jenkins told reporters he and the restricted free agent center had also already been in contact. Valanciunas is currently in Norway and had been on a fishing trip when they spoke via WhatsApp, but Jenkins indicated that they had a great conversation and Jonas gave him an extremely warm welcome.

On Thursday, news broke via Woj Bomb that Valanciunias planned to opt of of the $17.6 million option for 2019-20 with the intention of negotiating a longer-term deal with Memphis.

*I assume he was on a boat, but when I think of Jonas Valanciunas fishing, I picture him standing in a river, spearing fish with a trident.

Potential Assistant Coach(es)

Taylor Jenkins spent two years as an assistant coach with the Austin Toros under Brad Jones, who is coincidentally the current head coach of the Memphis Hustle. Jones was in attendance yesterday to lend his support, which Jenkins acknowledged and expressed appreciation for. The two have a great relationship, and along with Jones’ wealth of experience, the inherent comfort and trust level would make him a very logical choice to join Jenkins’ staff. He did not confirm anything on Jones, but gave a pretty strong indication that he would be in the picture as the staff came together.

Becky Hammon, who Jenkins worked alongside with the Spurs/Torros, was another name mentioned by reporters. Jenkins said he would absolutely be considering her as he works to build a coaching staff.

Pace and Style of Play

In discussing the team’s identity and style of play, Taylor Jenkins made it clear that defense was a priority. He talked about unselfishness and competitiveness being the two most important qualities — unselfishness at both ends of the floor, aggressive but disciplined on defense, constant communication, and help defense.

Offensively, expect to see pace and space, a lot of ball movement, passing on good shots to give a teammate a great shot, and a high percentage of shot attempts coming from the three-point line and at the rim. Basically, see the 2018-19 Milwaukee Bucks offense, only with a smaller point guard.

Thoughts on the Draft

Anthony Sain of the Memphis Flyer and The Outsiders Podcast asked the question we were all wondering — Jenkins’ thoughts on the No. 2 draft pick.

Jenkins obviously was not going to answer the question directly, so Sain, with a wink and nod, posed it as, “Hypothetically, if you had the No. 2 pick in the draft, what type of player would you pick to pair with Jaren? Don’t have to name names, not trying to put you out there.”

Jenkins listed a few obvious characteristics, but gave no specifics. Tayshaun Prince had to look away to keep from laughing, so at least he appreciated it.

Geoff Calkins’ Vocab Flex

Immediately following the draft question, The Daily Memphian’s Geoff Calkins posed the following: “You think Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) you think technocrat, a lot of smart people in this room, and yet you talk mostly about relationships, how do you balance those two things?

Technocrat. Scrabble 17-pointer. Taylor Jenkins was unphased and talked about the importance of relationships in coaching.