In an unexpected turn of events, Dave Joerger flew back to Memphis and was convinced by Grizzlies’ owner Robert Pera that he was indeed wanted back as head coach.
After a strange, months-long feud between Joerger, Pera, and other members of upper management (who have largely been fired since the conclusion of the season) in Memphis, the Grizzles went from almost certainly firing Joerger to exalting him as a “great coach”. The sordid and confusing details are laid out nicely here by Chris Mannix of SI.com. There are a number of interesting quotes at this link as well, including this quote from Joerger:
“There was so much stuff being said and 99 percent of it wasn’t true,” Joerger said. “This is Robert putting his stamp on things. He’s committed. I mean my talks in Minnesota were very positive. (Owner) Glen Taylor is a sweetheart of a man. He’s a sharp guy. But at the end of the day I came home and had long conversations with Robert. This guy just beat out my home team. What more needs to be said?”
Yikes. Not what you want to hear about your owner, generally speaking. And given some of the notes in the Mannix piece regarding Pera’s unorthodox ideas and abrasive treatment of employees in the basketball operations department…I’m not sure I’d willingly work for Pera, myself.
At any rate, the flirtation is over. According to ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson, the Wolves still believe that Memphis will fire Joerger in the near future. Wolfson also notes that Memphis was asking to swap first round picks (#13 for #22) and acquire a second round pick from Minnesota in exchange for Joerger. Smartly, the Wolves attempted to call their bluff by refusing to offer compensation for a coach that seemed on his way out at any point in time.
So, what’s next? There’s Sam Mitchell, who both Taylor and Saunders like very much. There’s the Flip-as-coach option, which Taylor is allegedly against but many in the local media seem to think it’s the end game in this coaching search. And there are conflicting reports regarding whether or not former Grizzlies’ coach Lionel Hollins has formally interviewed for the spot — Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune says he has, while Wolfson says it was more of an informal discussion.
Of the three options, Hollins is easily the best choice. Unfortunately, the team has yet to reach out to George Karl, who apparently is interested in the position. The search seems to be much narrower than it should be, and it certainly feels as though we’re headed towards a slow slide towards either Mitchell or Saunders. And the Minnesota-y cycle continues…