Lionel Hollins has coached the Memphis Grizzlies to the best season in the team's history, taking them to their first Western Conference Finals in the process. Yet, he still seems to be coaching for his future.
As the 56-26 Grizzlies do their best to come back from a 2-0 deficit against the San Antonio Spurs, Lionel Hollins remains without a contract for next season.
Even as other teams are nipping at Hollins after each game he and the Grizzlies win, the front office is seemingly still questioning whether or not he's the right coach for the team it has put together.
Obviously, there are fundamental differences between Hollins and the front office.
When Robert Para bought the team back in October, no decisions were made considering the direction of the team, as it seemed they were reserved to see how the season unrolled.
In essence, it seemed like a tryout for a lot of the team this season, and that includes Hollins.
What has become a problem throughout the season is that the new owners have gone all-in on embracing the statistical revolution in basketball. They hired ESPN's John Hollinger back in December in an attempt to start filling the front office with younger, analytic-driven basketball minds.
While that seems to be a good idea, given the success of the Houston Rockets and the importance they've placed on analytics in the past few seasons, it's a style that clashes with Hollins.
Hollins is generally considered to be in the old-school basketball camp, intent on playing a traditional lineup pigeonholing players into certain positions given their size.
He's a defensive-minded coach who has ingrained his professionalism into the rest of the players on the roster, and he also happens to be the winningest coach in Grizzlies history.
However, the Rudy Gay trade at the deadline seemed to be a direct contrast to old-school basketball thinking.
Memphis got rid of its leading scorer, brought back Tayshaun Prince, a lanky veteran, and Ed Davis, a guy who would be called a power forward by old standards but simply a "big" in today's NBA.
There is no "true" center other than Marc Gasol on the team, and that's the way the front office designed the team. However, that's not the way that Hollins coaches. (Via the Memphis Commercial Appeal)
One of the issues that I have is that neither Darrell or Ed (Davis) are fives. We don't have another big guy. We weren't able to play big and have two bigger people across the board because we don't have a bigger guy to put in the game.
Davis averaged just 15 minutes per game following the trade to Memphis, compared to 24 minutes when he was splitting starts with Amir Johnson on the Toronto Raptors.
Hollins also talked with Grantland's Zach Lowe following the Gay trade, telling Lowe that he wasn't a fan of the Gay trade when it went down:
People made it seem like I didn't know, or that I was upset. I wasn't upset. Somebody asked me a question: "Would you want to do the trade or not?" And I said I would not. But I also voiced that to management before the trade was even made, because they asked me.
Even though Hollins did lead the team to its most successful season yet, if he's not the type of coach that fits what the team is trying to do, letting him go wouldn't be that far-fetched.
They're obviously not at a boil-over point yet, especially since the team is winning, but it seems to be a similar situation to the Art Howe-Billy Beane dynamic with the Oakland Athletics back in 2002, around which the book Moneyball was based.
Howe was the old-school manager, while Beane was championing moneyball from behind the scenes.
The A's won 103 games in 2002, yet Beane released Howe from his contract following the season to go in a different direction.
I suppose now all we need is for Brad Pitt to play Hollinger and Phillip Seymour Hoffman to take on the Hollins role, the pair of them starring in Moneyball II: Mid-Range Jumper.
It still seems as if things are hunky-dory in Memphis (the team is successful). It's just up to the front office to decide whether it wants a coach to challenge the team or run its system to a tee.
The only conversations we've had is they said they wanted me back. After we lost the first two games to the Clippers, we had a friendly conversation about the series and how they just wanted me personally to know that regardless of what's being said out there, this is how they felt.
Regardless of what the Grizzlies decide, it seems safe to say that Hollins will be coaching in the NBA next season.
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