Somewhere, dwelling in a secluded cabin located in parts unknown, there sits Lionel Hollins, poring over a list of NBA coaching gigs, sipping a snifter of brandy, chortling uncontrollably at the Memphis Grizzlies' expense.
The gritty Grizzlies don't seem like an organization constantly plagued by internal theatrics. Yet they are.
A regime change took place in Memphis last summer, and according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, more shakeups are on the way now:
Hearing major shakeup forthcoming in Memphis: Team CEO Jason Levien is poised to resign from club after assistant GM Stu Lash was dismissed— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) May 19, 2014
Future of MEM coach Dave Joerger & executive VP John Hollinger uncertain after clash between Grizz owner Robert Pera and current management— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) May 19, 2014
Some of the changes have already been enacted, per Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver:
Grizzlies announce that both Jason Levien and Stu Lash are out. Chris Wallace to be interim head of basketball operations.— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 19, 2014
Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears provides additional context regarding Jason Levien's departure:
Grizzlies owner Robert Pera and Jason Levien have been at odds for over a year, a source said.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) May 19, 2014
Assuming Levien and Stu Lash aren't the last to go, Grantland's Bill Simmons says the Grizzlies are prepping a potential front-office coup:
Hearing that, if the Grizz totally clean house, the Memphis owner will look to trade for Tom Thibodeau + give him an SVG/Pistons-type deal.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 19, 2014
Weird. All this is weird.
To Tony Allen, it's apparently surprising, even though it shouldn't be:
Wow— Tony Allen (@aa000G9) May 19, 2014
This is definitely a "wow" moment. But it's also typical.
Grizz have complex owner structure where 14 different people own at least 3%. Controlling owner Robert Pera has just 25%. Lots of voices.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 19, 2014
Memphis has been a hotbed for off-court stagecraft since last season. Hollins was basically shown the door after leading the Grizzlies to a franchise-best 56 victories and guiding them to a Western Conference Finals appearance.
Some saw it coming, while others did not. One minute, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles brings word that Hollins is optimistic he will be returning. Then, in almost no time at all, the Grizzlies are citing "philosophical differences" and bidding him adieu, per The Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery.
Assistant Dave Joerger eventually replaced him, under what may or may not have been shady circumstances.
Back in December, former Grizzlies assistant Barry Hecker told Sporting News' Sean Deveney a dysfunctional tale in which he detailed his own bizarre departure:
That, though, was just a triggering incident. Over the course of the season, Hecker’s relationship with Hollins was increasingly strained, and an outside source confirmed that, of all his staff members, Hollins tended to be hardest on Hecker because of their long relationship (the two had known each other more than two decades).
Hecker also frequently butted heads with fellow assistant coach Dave Joerger, whom Hecker felt was angling for Hollins’ job. Grizzlies officials would not comment directly on the record about the matter, but a source did say that Joerger, worried about the perception that he would be named successor to Hollins (who was in the final year of his contract), made an effort to distance himself from the perception that he wanted the head-coaching job.
In Hecker's account, Joerger is portrayed as a treacherous go-getter who would stop at nothing to bilk Hollins of his job. Hecker even said he saw the change coming.
“I told Lionel two years ago, I said, ‘Lionel, this (guy) is going to get your job one day if you don’t watch yourself.’ ”
Turns out he may have been right.
But Joerger wasn't the only one who might have had a hand in Hollins' departure. John Hollinger, the former ESPN writer-turned-Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations, reportedly clashed with him too, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:
During the Grizzlies' playoff run, tensions turned to a confrontation when Hollins exploded during a practice session upon finding Hollinger had walked onto the practice court and engaged forward Austin Daye during a shooting drill, multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports.
With the team watching—and with a motive to show his players that he was completely in charge on the floor, sources said—Hollins loudly questioned Hollinger about what he was doing, and why he believed it was appropriate for a management official to intrude on what's considered sacred territory for a coach and team, sources said.
Everything about this is odd. It was odd then; it's odd now.
Lionel Hollins going on anti-stats/analytics ramage weeks after Hollinger/Levien/Lash front office takeover is...interesting.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) January 11, 2013
All indications are that Hollinger and Joerger are doing a bang-up job in Memphis. The Grizzlies didn't have a lot to work with this season—below-average offense, Marc Gasol injury, etc.—yet they still managed to regroup in time to make the playoffs and give the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder all they could handle.
If Zach Randolph isn't suspended for Game 7, maybe they win that series. Maybe they earn a matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers. Maybe they beat them too. Who knows? We sure don't. Just like we won't ever know what truly happened with Hollins.
Hopefully, this time will be different. If the Grizzlies hold another off-court revolution, perhaps more telling, less generic reasons as to why will be offered.
This is a big summer for them. Again. And they appear to be headed for drastic changes. Again. And we're left wondering why.