Before the Indiana Pacers decided to end their relationship with Frank Vogel, we were adamant that the team should bring back their former head coach. The fact is, great NBA coaches don’t grow on trees. So when you find yourself lucky enough to have one, it’s probably a good idea to hold on to that individual. Unfortunately, just like the Pacers, the Memphis Grizzlies didn’t appear to agree with that philosophy.
On Saturday, the Grizzlies announced that they had fired David Joerger after three seasons as the team’s head coach. “The decision was made because I believe you need a deeply committed leadership team in order to establish the strong culture needed for sustainable long-term success,” said general manager Chris Wallace in a Q&A on the team’s website. “I don’t want to get into specifics, but our goal now is to identify the best candidate for our organization.”
Although it’s never easy to lose one’s job, Joerger has bounced back rather quickly, accepting a four-year deal to become the new coach of the Sacramento Kings. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, must now look to fill the void that they created. While we expect to see an extensive search, we can’t help but feel the need to make some suggestions. Here’s a look at three possible head-coaching candidates for the Memphis Grizzlies.
1. Ettore Messina
The majority of basketball fans may not know who Ettore Messina is, but trust us, those in NBA circles most certainly do. Aside from being an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs since the 2014–15 season, Messina is also one of the most accomplished coaches in international basketball history.
Prior to becoming a part of the Spurs’ staff, Messina had successful stints as the head coach of CSKA Moscow in the Russian League, Virtus Bologna in the Italian League, and the senior men’s Italian national basketball team. During his two-plus decades of coaching experience, Messina has won four Euroleague titles and been named the Euroleague Coach of the Year twice. It’s only a matter of time before Messina becomes an NBA head coach. Will it be with the Grizzlies? We’ll just have to wait and see.
2. Patrick Ewing
Patrick Ewing is one of the greatest centers to ever play the game. We all know that. But he is also a man with undeniable head-coaching aspirations who has spent ample amounts of time in the No. 2 chair. And this could be the perfect opportunity to move him over to the big boy’s seat.
From 2003–04 to 2011–12, Ewing served as an assistant coach with both the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic, gaining valuable experience on the bench. However, the Hall of Fame center has truly shined as the associate head coach in Charlotte, a position he’s held since the 2013–14 season.
With Ewing’s help, Hornets coach Steve Clifford has molded Charlotte into one of the better defensive teams in the NBA; one that’s been in the top 10 in points allowed and defensive rating for the last three seasons. As a former player, Ewing knows what it takes to really connect with a team and how to motivate them to be great.
In a Memphis organization that could be looking at plenty of turnover in the offseason, and therefore in desperate need of a fresh identity, we have a feeling Ewing could be the right man to lead this team into the future. All he needs is a shot.
3. Frank Vogel
According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Grizzlies have already reached out to Vogel to gauge his interest in the position. And considering the argument that he is possibly the best available coach on the market, this is hardly a surprise.
During his time in charge of the Pacers, Vogel accumulated a 250-181 record, compiled a .580 winning percentage, and led the team to five playoff appearances in six attempts. As an NBA head coach, Vogel isn’t quite on the “elite” level. However, he’s pretty close. If the Grizzlies were able to land someone of his caliber, we’d say the future would look pretty bright in Memphis.