Report: J.B. Bickerstaff Fired as Grizzlies HC; GM Chris Wallace Reassigned

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2019

Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff watches in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, in Detroit, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The Memphis Grizzlies announced Thursday they fired head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and reassigned general manager Chris Wallace and vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger within the organization Thursday. 

"In order to put our team on the path to sustainable success, it was necessary to change our approach to basketball operations," owner Robert J. Pera said in a statement. "I look forward to a reenergized front office and fresh approach to Memphis Grizzlies basketball under new leadership, while retaining the identity and values that have distinguished our team.

"I want to thank Chris and John for their long-term service and dedication to the Memphis Grizzlies and for their considerable contributions to our past successes, and look forward to their contributions to our future ones. I also want to thank J.B. for his leadership and commitment to our organization in his time as our coach."

Per the team's release, Wallace will take on a scouting role with the Grizzlies, while Hollinger will take a "senior advisory" role.

Bickerstaff, 40, went 48-97 as the Grizzlies' head coach after taking over for David Fizdale 19 games into the 2017-18 season. 

Wallace conducted exit interviews with reporters earlier Thursday and said Bickerstaff would be retained. He seemed to be under the impression he would return next season as well. Bickerstaff also handled player exit interviews for the team before being fired, per Shams Charania of The Vertical. 

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The organizational upheaval represents a recognition from the ownership group that it's time to rebuild. Memphis, which entered the 2018-19 straddling the rebuild/playoff push line, began the process in February by shipping Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors

It's likely longtime point guard Mike Conley will follow him out the door over the summer. Conley admitted to reporters Thursday at exit interviews that he has no interest in being part of a rebuild.

"I want to win a championship, number one," Conley said. "I love (Jaren Jackson Jr.) I've done a lot of that, been a part of it. At some point, you have to pass that torch."

Conley has two years and $67 million remaining on his five-year, $152.6 million contract he signed before the 2016-17 season. His high cap number will limit his number of suitors, but enough teams have max-level cap space available that the Grizzlies should be able to find a taker once free agency settles.

No Grizzlies coach has lasted five full seasons in franchise history. Their next coach will be the 15th (including interim) coach to lead the franchise since its inception in 1995. 

Wallace has been with the Grizzlies since 2007 but seen his role change on multiple occasions. This is the second time he's served as the team's general manager, taking over the role in 2014. Hollinger, who joined the Grizzlies after a long stint at ESPN as an analytics guru, had no experience running a basketball organization before being hired.