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Best Landing Spots for Discarded Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins

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Best Landing Spots for Discarded Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins
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Lionel Hollins didn't want to spend his summer searching for a new job. He hoped that giving the Memphis Grizzlies their most successful season in franchise history would be enough.

It wasn't.

Thanks to what one source called "major philosophical differences" between the coach and the new ownership regime, even a pair of franchise firsts fell short of landing Hollins a new contract in Memphis.

He guided the Grizzlies to three playoff berths in his four full seasons at the helm, and took this team further than it had ever been in the postseason (Western Conference finals) after the best regular season in team history (56-26) this year.

But the differences between the old-school coach and the analytically driven management group proved too drastic for their relationship to continue.

Hollins was officially shown the door on Monday, and his tenure with the club came to an abrupt end, via Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver.

Even though he had hoped to remain in Memphis, it's time for Hollins to embrace whatever possibilities may lie ahead. They might be more appealing than he thinks.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The coaching market appears to be thinning by the day, with the Detroit Pistons naming Maurice Cheeks as their next coach and the Brooklyn Nets reportedly locking in on Jason Kidd, via SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria.

But two prominent positions, arguably the most attractive jobs on the market other than the one Hollins has left behind, remain open and very much a possibility for the former Grizzlies coach.

The Denver Nuggets, who won 57 games last season, are on the hunt after severing ties with reigning Coach of the Year George Karl. And they were reportedly been keeping tabs on Hollins before he was even officially available.

Those minutes that management wanted Karl to give JaVale McGee could be coming in droves. A McGee-Kenneth Faried frontcourt would give Hollins the athletic jolt on his interior that he never had in Memphis.

And the Nuggets employ the quantity of three-point threats (five different players shot above 36.5 percent this season) that the Grizzlies desperately lacked.

But it wouldn't have to be a complete transformation in philosophy. He'd still have an up-and-coming floor general in Ty Lawson, and a number of long, athletic defenders to throw at opposing clubs.

If free-agent wing Andre Iguodala re-signs in Denver, Hollins would have someone to fill the stopper role that All-Defensive first-teamer Tony Allen played in Memphis.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers are looking to fill their own coaching vacancy, thanks in no small part to the first-round series loss handed to them by Hollins' Grizzlies.

But any coach preparing to take over L.A.'s other team will have to do so on a leap of faith, at least until Chris Paul makes his free-agent decision.

Assuming Paul sticks around, though, the Clippers may well have the most talented roster of any coach-less club.

Hollins would still have an athletically charged frontcourt combo in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, a pairing that's more polished than what he'd be working with in Denver.

And while scouts salivate over the potential of Denver's Lawson or Memphis' Mike Conley, those players aspire to be what Chris Paul already is.

Hollins would also get a pair of perimeter stoppers in Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler, along with a point-producing microwave off the bench in Jamal Crawford.

Hollins might need to convince the Clippers (or Paul rather, if you believe owner Donald Sterling) that he's the right man for the job, but he should need no convincing that L.A.'s a potential home.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

And there's always the possibility that the best landing spot for Hollins isn't available at this time. He's got the kind of resume that would afford him a year (or two) away from the game without disappearing off the basketball landscape.

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It's hard to imagine the same amount of head coaching positions opening up after next season, but the potential quality of those that do could be intriguing enough for Hollins to wait this year out.

Doc Rivers has toyed with the idea of leaving the Boston Celtics for a few seasons now, and he's reportedly entertaining those thoughts once again. Mike D'Antoni's sideline perch at the Staples Center might be the hottest seat in the business.

Mike Woodson has returned the New York Knicks to relevance, but perhaps he'll be victimized by the same expectations that he's helped to create.

So while this might not be how Hollins envisioned his summer, it's certainly a process that he should fully embrace.

He doesn't have to work next season, which should give him some extra bargaining chips at the negotiating table if he chooses to do so.

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