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Life After Lionel

  • Written by Kelley Evans
  • Published in Original

Joerger2-600After making it to the Western Conference Finals – a punctuation mark on the franchise's best season ever – the Memphis Grizzlies are back in training camp with their starting five.

They have a new head coach, Dave Joerger, who served as defensive coordinator under former head coach Lionel Hollins.

They've brought back sharpshooter Mike Miller, who earned championship experience with the Miami Heat after an earlier stint with the Grizz.

They've acquired a new down-low force in Kosto Koufos, beefing up the frontcourt and providing much-needed back up to All-Star center Marc Gasol.

So far, this is life after Hollins.

mike miller-600And everything seems to be moving right along.

"Since I've become head coach it's definitely been more busy," Joerger said on Monday at the preseason Media Day at FedExForum.

"There is a lot of stuff on the peripheral," he said. "It's a big responsibility and I'm excited to get started."

The Grizzlies and Hollins parted ways in June with "philosophical differences" cited in a press statement released at the time. Besides Joerger, those in the running to succeed Hollins included former Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry and George Karl, who won the NBA Coach of the Year award last season but then lost his job in Denver.

Pondexter-600"The opportunity to coach any NBA team is truly a privilege," said Joerger, who coached the 2007 NBA D-League Champion Dakota Wizards. It was the fifth championship as head coach for Joerger, with one International Basketball Association title and three in the Continental Basketball Association.

With Joerger's expertise on the sidelines, the Grizzlies have steadily become one of the NBA's most tenacious defenses, leading the league in fewest points allowed (89.3) and ranking second in overall defensive rating.

Now Joerger wants to focus on offense. He plans to use the new talent on the roster, along with the pieces already in place, to open the floor more and unclog the paint.

The players are on board with the fresh perspective.

"I'll do whatever they tell me to do," Miller said on Monday. "I think you'll see the Memphis Grizzlies make a lot more shots this year and have a lot more confidence shooting those shots."

conley-600Starting point guard Mike Conley said the Grizzlies got caught in one game plan and one scheme of one coach.

"When Lionel first came it was defense, it was being gritty – being hard nose and physical," Conley said. "And that was what we adapted to. With Joerger here now, he's coming in with the offensive mindset. Not trying to sacrifice too much defensively but to continue to increase our speed and better conditioning and push that ball and hopefully guys will take that word. ...

"I feel like he's a great young coach and has a lot of experience. All of the guys trust him and believe in him and we just look forward to playing for him."

All-Star power forward Zach Randolph said he's coming ready to work.

"Coach has the respect from all the players that have been here with him," Randolph said. "This is his first year (as head coach), so there is going to be a lot of eyes on him.

"I'm the easiest person to get along with. You know me," he said. "This is a player's league and this is a man's league first and foremost. We're coachable."

Guard/forward Quincy Pondexter said life without Lionel has been seamless so far.

"Were just picking up where we left off," Pondexter said. "It's sad to see him (Hollins) go. But at the same time we have a great young coach who's really energetic, who's really doing a lot of positive things for us and I think he's going to take us to the next level."

NOTE: The Grizzlies are coming off a 56-26 season. The team's five-day training camp kicked off Monday at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. The preseason gets underway against Derrick Rose and the Chicago bulls in St. Louis on Oct. 7.

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