Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera has abruptly ousted team CEO Jason Levien and assistant general manager Stu Lash.
The team announced the stunning moves Monday afternoon, saying "the decision was made for Jason Levien and Stu Lash to depart the organization" after discussions with management.
ESPN.com first reported the departures earlier Monday, with sources close to the situation saying a breakdown in the relationship between Pera and Levien -- who helped broker Pera's purchase of the franchise from Michael Heisley in June 2012 -- led to a major shakeup in Memphis for the second successive spring.
The Grizzlies declined to re-sign popular coach Lionel Hollins after last season's trip to the Western Conference finals and replaced him with Dave Joerger, who won 50 games this season as a rookie coach. But sources say the futures of Joerger and executive vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger -- who was hired away from ESPN -- are immediately unclear. Both were handpicked choices by Levien.
Sources told ESPN.com on Monday that Pera expressed internal dismay with Joerger early in the season and contemplated firing him before the Grizzlies steadied themselves after the return from injury of Marc Gasol lifted Memphis back to the level of success it was accustomed to under Hollins.
Memphis wound up finishing seventh in the West and lost a seven-game series to Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs after star forward Zach Randolph was suspended for the deciding game.
The Grizzlies, in confirming the departures of Levien and Lash, announced that longtime team executive Chris Wallace, who has moved into the background over the past 18 months, has been re-installed as head of basketball operations "for the time being." It is also believed that Grizzlies general counsel Dave Mincberg will take a more prominent role in the team's decision-making going forward.
"Our franchise has made tremendous strides over the last few seasons and we thank Jason for his hard work and dedication and wish him nothing but success in his future endeavors," Pera said in a statement. "Rest assured that we remain as committed as ever to bringing a championship to this great city and we are confident that when the new season begins our fans will be excited about both our roster and the direction of our organization."
Grizzlies swingman Tony Allen, reacting to the news, simply tweeted:
- Tony Allen (@aa000G9) May 19, 2014