Memphis Grizzlies' Lionel Hollins Should Be Coach of the Year Contender

A. Enslen ButlerContributor IJanuary 16, 2010

PHOENIX - NOVEMBER 25:  Head coach Lionel Hollins of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts to a call during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on November 25, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Grizzlies 126-111.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

For NBA watchers who missed it before the holidays, Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins won the Western Conference Coach of the Month award for December.

Frankly, the award was well deserved. It also seems that he has done enough to get a well-deserved contract extension.

"Lionel's proved he can coach," Heisley said to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. "He's connected with the players. He has them playing together and we're winning games."

Usually, I do not put much stock in in-season awards or rankings. But I believe this is recognition that is truly deserved. If the Grizzlies continue playing this way, he would be worthy of the Coach of the Year award.

Think about how he handled the whole Allen Iverson mess.
This team could have imploded after he left. Or worse, the team could played Iverson and the season would have been lost.
Do not kid yourself. If AI were starting, this team would not be above .500.
Today, the Grizzlies are 20-18 and one game out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Earlier this season, I wrote that Hollins would have to get the team to play with effort and good defense. He did. He found the right balance of good offense and timely defense to exceed expectations.
A playoff berth for Memphis would make him a top candidate. But, I would say that even a ninth place Western Conference finish would make him a strong contender.
Note: Listen to my weekly podcast, "Memphis Grizzlies Report ," where I talk about the team.