The Memphis Grizzlies relieved Dave Joerger of his coaching duties Saturday. The move came despite Joerger reaching the playoffs with one of the most injury-riddled squads in NBA history, Joerger’s .598 winning percentage, and despite his having reached the postseason in each of his three seasons since he replaced Lionel Hollins following the team’s Western Conference Finals run in 2013.
Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement:
“After careful consideration, I concluded that a change was needed to foster the strong culture required to achieve sustainable, long-term success for this organization, the city and our fans,” said General Manager, Chris Wallace.
“On behalf of the Grizzlies organization I would like to thank Dave for his work and time in Memphis,” Wallace continued. “We wish Dave and his family all the best and success as he moves forward in his career.”
Joerger’s dissatisfaction with the roster had been evident all season, with the third-year coach taking open shots at the team’s age in the media during Memphis’ struggles early on this year. Joerger has consistently wanted a fresh start with a younger roster, and while he was extremely emotional about his players’ performance in the playoffs under difficult conditions, this move may be the best for both sides.
CBS Sports’ Ken Berger reports that the ripple effect of this move has Joerger at the top of Sacramento’s list, while Frank Vogel, in turn, looks like the main target in Memphis.
Joerger had one guaranteed season left on his contract and a team option for 2017-2018.
Here are five things to know as the Grizzlies and Dave Joerger part ways:
1. I would not exactly call this a firing. Joerger’s dissatisfaction with the roster had been evident all season, namely when he went through the media to take open shots at the team’s age during Memphis’ early season struggles. Joerger has consistently wanted a fresh start with a younger roster, and while he was extremely emotional about his players’ performance in the playoffs under difficult conditions, this move is for the best for both sides.
Joerger tried for multiple seasons to get the team to buy in to more advanced offensive concepts vs. their traditional “dump it down in the post” approach, wanting to get into sets quicker and run more mid-transition actions, but the team resisted, as every time they tried to incorporate such ideas, the offense fell apart and they would go back to their comfort zone. With a fresh start, Joerger’s blend of ideas, discipline, and whatever is the best available skill at on the market, could lead to great success.
2. The most likely landing spots are Sacramento and Houston, and both are good fits for him. Sacramento is already reportedly trying to pounce on him as their No. 1 option, and if that were to work out, Joerger would have an elite post player in DeMarcus Cousins to build an offense around, and he’s have a younger core, too. If hired by Vlade Divac, he’s likely to have a greater say in personnel decisions as well. There’s the standard caveat that this is the Kings, and they’re insane as a collective organization, but among the available candidates, Joerger is the best hire they can find.
Meanwhile, the Rockets need a forward-thinking coach that can balance offense and defense, and Joerger is definitely that guy. While Frank Vogel is just as good a coach, he’s offensively less forward-thinking, and the Rockets need help on both sides of the ball. Additionally, Vogel had trouble with chemistry issues in the locker room in 2013 while Joerger has managed to get his team through in tough times. Remeber when the Grizzlies came apart at the seams in 2015, only to smack the Blazers in the first round and then legitimately push Golden State in Round 2?
Joerger is a good coach. He would likely succeed in either situation.
3. Vogel makes sense for Memphis, but they’ll look around. Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts is expected to be in the mix, and they’ll likely consider a number of other options. Vogel’s not a top-of-market guy, and they’re not going to want to shell out the kinds of five-year, $25 million deals that are being handed out like candy elsewhere.
However, Vogel would come in as a pretty seamless fit. Vogel will feed the post and focus on defense, which the Memphis roster loves. Vogel will get the ball in the post out of pick-and-roll switches more, which could help Memphis create space. He’s also a great developmental coach which Memphis will need as it tries to restock the roster, and he’s not a coach who clashes with personnel or the front office.
And to boot, Vogel is an excellent in-series-adjustments coach who can figure out ways to find and exploit matchups. Memphis may decide to go with a bolder choice, but Vogel would be a perfect fit for their specific situation.
4. Memphis needs some stability. In a Q&A on the team’s website, Wallace said that this move was, in fact, made to create a better sense of stability. However, the team has now moved through two coaches, and a front office, in three years as Lionel Hollins, Jason Levien, Stu Lash, and now Joerger have all been cycled through. Joerger was nearly gone two years ago with owner Robert Pera reportedly considering letting him walk to Minnesota but the two met, patched things up, and Joerger was extended.
Still, that kind of movement doesn’t exactly scream stable, which is key with Mike Conley’s upcoming free agency. However, Chris Wallace has been with the team for a decade and John Hollinger has been in place for many years as well. This certainly isn’t a Kings situation.
5. This won’t affect Mike Conley’s free agency. Conley wasn’t particularly close with Joerger. He was successful under him, and will only say good things about him in the days and weeks to come. But this is not a situation where Joerger signs with the Kings and suddenly Conley wants to follow him. Conley was just as much a part of the team’s resistance to Joerger’s advanced offensive concepts as anyone, and the team will of course consult with Conley as far as what he wants in a coach should he decide to re-sign in Memphis.
In short, if Conley was going to leave, he’s still going to leave, and if Conley planned to stay, he’s still going to stay.