If there is one person that deserves major credit for the great turnaround of the Memphis Grizzlies over the past few seasons, it’s the work of Lionel Hollins. He brought toughness and a no-nonsense attitude to an environment that became accustomed to losing. He didn’t take kindly to poorly-defended possessions. If you couldn’t step up at that end of the floor, you weren’t going to play as much no matter how good you were on the offensive end. Just ask Allen Iverson and O.J. Mayo. He will play Tony Allen over you any day of the week.
Hollins has strong leadership qualities and is the type of coach that takes control of his players (quite successfully, too), whether they like what he does or not. Given what he has become and what he means to the franchise, it’s hard to imagine the team letting him go when his contract expires in June. For now, he hopes to stay in Memphis and doesn’t even expect to have permission to speak with other teams. Tim Bomtemps of New York Post has details:
“If the Nets want to speak to Lionel Hollins about their head coaching vacancy, they might have to wait a while. Speaking to reporters yesterday — a day after Memphis’ season ended with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Spurs in the Western Conference finals — Hollins said he doesn’t expect to be granted permission to speak to other teams before his contract expires on June 30. Hollins, who led the Grizzlies to a franchise record 56 wins this season and playoff series wins over the Clippers and Thunder, is considered the hottest coaching candidate on the market, with the Nets and Clippers — far and away the two best available jobs at the moment — expected to want to interview him. That would mean, however, Hollins would have to leave Memphis to take one of those jobs, something he said yesterday he would prefer not to do. “Hopefully, I’ll be here,” Hollins told the media. “I think they understand that I want to be back.”
You’d like to hear some positive assurance from upper management in regards to this situation, but Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien refused to give any concrete answers about how the franchise wants to approach what they will do about Hollins, from Tim Bontemps:
Question: Do you want [Hollins] back?
Answer: I think what I would say at this point is … up to this point, we said we didn’t want to negotiate or talk about his contract status publicly and I think we’re going to stick with that. Certainly we admire the job he’s done, and it was very helpful and very positive, we had a long conversation last night in his office, Robert, myself and Lionel, talking about the team and the community and the organization and sort of what the potential is for it. I thought that was a very positive conversation on the heels of a very emotional ending to the season.
Question: Does [this process] play out within a week, bringing him back or not?
Answer: I don’t want to put a timeframe on it, because I wouldn’t want to box ourselves in. Certainly he’s under contract, as many have reported, until the end of June, but we want to move quickly because we have important steps towards thinking about the future.
Question: Do you intend to make an offer before that timeframe [the end of June] is up?
Answer: Again, I think we’d stick to our policy of not commenting on the negotiations or the discussions around his contract.
There are plenty of teams that are waiting in line for a chance to acquire Hollins, so the Grizzlies would be wise to lock him up as quickly as they can.
Onto other news from around the league: