Why the Memphis Grizzlies' Head Coaching Change Was a Huge Mistake

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Why the Memphis Grizzlies' Head Coaching Change Was a Huge Mistake
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In case you lived under a rock this NBA offseason, the Memphis Grizzlies had their best season in franchise history last year under head coach Lionel Hollins.  

This summer Memphis replaced Hollins.  Weird, right?

Hollins increased the team's number of wins every season and is currently the franchise's all-time winningest coach.

So, why did the Grizzlies' management let him go?

"Philosophical differences," as reported by Ronald Tillery of Memphis's The Commercial Appeal.

Apparently, Lionel Hollins and the Grizzlies' management have different philosophies on winning.

Maybe that's a little too harsh. So far in this very young NBA season, however, the Grizz are struggling under new head coach Dave Joerger.  The Grizzlies are 2-3, losing to the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans, putting them at the bottom of the Southwestern Division.

Losing to the San Antonio Spurs, who beat the Grizzlies in last season's Western Conference Finals, is understandable.  

But the Grizzlies, who boasted the league's best defense last season, allowing just 89.3 points per regular season game, gave up 111 points against the Mavericks on Saturday.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Their once league-leading defense is currently ranked 21 out of 30 teams in points allowed, giving up 101.4 points per game.

In their loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, their defense stepped up, holding New Orleans to 99 points.  But, the offense only scored 84 points against a very young Pelicans squad, whose only other win this season has come against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Defense hasn't been the only issue this season.  While in the process of learning a new offense, the Grizz are averaging 16.8 turnovers per game.

Fast-paced teams are bound to have more turnovers than slower teams who run half-court sets, so the "Joerger pace" could be skewing that number.

It's not.  At all.

The Memphis Grizzlies' pace ranks 26th out of 30 teams.  The Sacramento Kings, who are the 27th ranked team, average 14.3 turnovers, two-and-a-half less than the Grizzlies.

Memphis is failing to keep the pace Joerger wants and are still finding ways to turn the ball over, which in turn hurts their defense by giving up easy buckets off TO's.

Ideally, the Grizzlies should be taking care of the ball and running in transition, but in order to win they need at least one or the other.

In the video below, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph talk about the Grizzlies' defense and turnovers after their win against the Boston Celtics.  Take a look.

The grittin' and grindin' Grizz just don't seem like themselves so far this season, and although they are still adjusting to the new offensive system, it's not just x's and o's that are different.

We aren't consistently seeing the hard-nosed, gritty play we are used to seeing from Memphis.  There are spurts of it, sure.  But as of now it seems lost in the process of learning a new system.

Starting point guard Mike Conley, disappointed after their loss to the Pelicans, had this to say about their performance, as reported by Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal.

"If we gave the effort that we normally give and laid it all out there, we’d be fine with that. But to not bring it and lose the way we did that’s not our basketball. That’s not what this city is used to. We can’t allow that."

Marc Gasol weighed in on the Grizzlies' performance, as well, as reported by Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal (linked above.)

"It looks bad when we’re not all on the same page and try to do things ourselves. It kind of happened in the game before but we tightened up and won in the fourth quarter. Tonight, we couldn’t get it together."

Red Coleman of 3 Shades of Blue and Sports56 co-host David Basham took to Twitter to express what they thought the issue was.

 

There does seem to be an intensity problem. 

That's not to say Dave Joerger has demotivated the Grizzlies.  He hasn't.  But instead of coming into the season just tweaking a few things here and there in a system that the Grizzlies' players were comfortable and familiar with, the Grizzlies completely scrapped their offense and started over.

If you're a veteran, you're basically a rookie again, learning something for the first time—learning how to play with your team in the new system.

The morale that the Grizzlies built last season by winning the most games in franchise history and appearing in the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever isn't destroyed, but it definitely has taken a hit, which may be what Gasol and Conley are seeing in their play.

If the Grizzlies had kept Hollins and maintained the roster they have now, they would be title contenders this season.  

They have the players and the talent, but now the players are learning an entirely new offense, which will more than likely prove to be a good thing in the future. But for now, it may have hindered them from an NBA championship.

Coming off their best season in franchise history, this year probably would have been Memphis's best chance to win a championship with this group.

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Zach Randolph is 32 years old.  So is Tony Allen.  Marc Gasol is 29.  

The Grizzlies are aging, and although aging doesn't always mean getting worse (see the San Antonio Spurs,) the momentum from last season may have been the push the Grizz needed to get their franchise's first championship. 

That's not to say Joerger and his new offense can't win a championship in the future.  They definitely have the players to do that, but no championship this year.

Replacing their head coach has definitely set them back and may have cost Grizzlies' owner Robert Pera his first championship.

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