The Memphis Grizzlies have definitvely decided not to offer coach Lionel Hollins a new contract, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that Hollins and the Grizzlies formally parted company Monday after the parties appeared to be heading for a separation for days.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper was the first to report Monday night that Hollins’ contract would not be renewed.
Grizzlies assistant coach Dave Joerger, sources said, is the overwhelming favorite to succeed Hollins, who departs in the wake of a 56-win season and the franchise’s first-ever trip to the Western Conference finals.
In the wake of the most successful season in franchise history, Memphis has nonetheless decided that what has widely been described as “philosophical differences” between the team’s new owners and Hollins has necessitated a change on the bench.
Sources say that the Grizzlies have been evaluating other candidates, including freshly ousted Denver Nuggets coach George Karl and former Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry, but are leaning very strongly toward replacing Hollins with Joerger, who essentially served as the Grizzlies’ defensive coordinator under Hollins.
After Memphis’ playoff elimination and a subsequent breakdown in negotiations on a new contract with Hollins, whose current contract expires June 30, Memphis gave Hollins permission to talk to other teams, with Grizzlies officials concluding that their ongoing hot-and-cold relationship between the 59-year-old can’t support the idea of a new long-term contract.
Sources say that the Grizzlies feel Hollins, despite Memphis’ considerable success over the past three seasons, is not prepared to foster the sort of collaborative relationship that the Grizzlies’ new management team — led by majority owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien — want to have with their coach. Questions about Hollins’ willingness to work under Pera and Levien have been in circulation since late January, when Hollins publicly criticized the trade of Rudy Gay to Toronto on multiple occasions.
Hollins, however, said in a recent radio interview on 560 AM in Memphis that he “never knew there were philosophical differences” with management and insisted that he was determined to stay with the Grizzlies.
“I want to coach the Memphis Grizzlies, the team that the city has embraced and that has the potential to go further with a few tweaks and adjustments,” Hollins told “First Call with Peter Edmiston” on 560 AM. Hollins went on to add that he feels “very comfortable with being here and working with management.”
“I thought everything was good,” Hollins said in his radio interview. “I was excited when I left [last week]. … The next thing I know I’ve been given permission to talk to other teams. People need to know from my perspective that I don’t want to talk to any other teams. I want to be here. I told the media after our exit interviews that if the team offered me a contract that I felt was fair, I’d sign it the next day.”
ESPN.com reported last month that Hollins had an increasingly strained relationship with star forward Zach Randolph. Similar tensions between Hollins and reserve guard Jerryd Bayless were in evidence during the Grizzlies’ season-ending loss to San Antonio in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, when Hollins was seen shoving Bayless near the Memphis bench.
Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, by contrast, has been publicly lobbying for Hollins to stay, telling ESPN.com last month he was “trying to go to bat for him to try and keep him here.”
“I know that he’s fought for me in every situation that he’s had to,” Conley said. “I can’t even put enough words in the sentences to say how much it means to me.”
In an interview with ESPN.com during the playoffs, Hollins said: “The only conversations we’ve had is they said they wanted me back. After we lost the first two games to the Clippers, we had a friendly conversation about the series and how they just wanted me personally to know that regardless of what’s being said out there, this is how they felt. That was great.”
Leaving little doubt in the radio appearance that he was still holding out hope of coming to terms with the Grizzlies on a new deal, Hollins said: “I believe in Memphis. I love Memphis. I never had any intention of going anywhere. I don’t have any intention of going anywhere. I love Memphis. … Our business is very fickle. When you’re producing as a coach you get to stay. When you don’t produce, you have to leave. Bottom line.”