- Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Memphis Grizzlies have reached an agreement in principle to elevate assistant Dave Joerger to become head coach, sources involved in the negotiations said Monday.
Joerger, who has spent the past six seasons on the Grizzlies' bench, will succeed his former boss, Lionel Hollins. Hollins compiled a 196-155 record after taking over for Marc Iavaroni midway through the 2008-09 season.
The 39-year-old Joerger emerged as a favorite for the position after Grizzlies management granted Hollins permission to seek other coaching opportunities. Before turning to their longtime assistant, the Grizzlies formally interviewed former Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry and Chicago Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney for the post, and also entertained the idea of bringing on high-profile names such as former Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl.
Prior to the 2010-11 season, Joerger was tasked by Hollins to oversee the Grizzlies' defense, which was ranked 25th in efficiency in 2009-10. In the three seasons under Joerger's direction, the defense has improved from ninth overall in 2010-11, to seventh in 2011-12, then ranked second in the NBA during the Grizzlies' historic 2012-13 season.
Before arriving in Memphis, Joerger coached in the International Basketball Association, the Continental Basketball Association and the D-League, where he won five titles in seven seasons as a head coach.
Joerger will take over a Memphis team that has improved in each of the past five seasons. The Grizzlies won 56 games this past season, then defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs and the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals, before being swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
Hollins endured a bumpy final season in Memphis despite leading the Grizzlies to the most successful season in franchise history. He publicly voiced his reservations when the Grizzlies' management group, under new owner Robert Pera, traded Rudy Gay to Toronto.
Hollins also spoke openly about his skepticism of analytics, a cornerstone of the new front office's strategy. Communication between the front office and Hollins had been prickly over the past several months, an uneasiness that came to a head once the Grizzlies were eliminated from the postseason and the two sides began considering Hollins' future.
Hollins publicly professed a desire to remain with the Grizzlies, telling a local radio station soon after the team bowed out of the playoffs: "I love Memphis. I never had any intention of going anywhere. I don't have any intention of going anywhere."
The Grizzlies ultimately declined to offer Hollins a new contract and turned instead to Joerger, a known entity inside their locker room. He brings to the job a reputation as a capable tactician and is receptive to the field of advanced statistics in basketball, another point in his favor with the Grizzlies' new leadership.
8dEthan Sherwood Strauss