Report: Memphis Grizzlies Want Jeff Van Gundy to Coach, Be Team President
One year after replacing the stringent, esteemed Lionel Hollins as head coach, Dave Joerger is virtually gone, which has left the Grizzlies to send good thoughts in Van Gundy's general direction, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein:
One of the prime options under consideration by the Memphis Grizzlies in the wake of last week's management shakeup and the looming departure of Dave Joerger to the Minnesota Timberwolves is making a run at Jeff Van Gundy to be their coach and run their front office, according to NBA coaching sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Grizzlies have serious interest in trying to convince Van Gundy to serve as coach and team president in a job structure modeled after the new dual role brother Stan Van Gundy has secured with the Detroit Pistons.
Things haven't been peachy for the Grizzlies since parting ways with Hollins last summer. After firing CEO Jason Levien and assistant general manager Stu Lash, parting ways with Joerger—who coached the team to 50 wins and a near first-round upset of the Oklahoma City Thunder this past season—is next on their agenda.
Grizzlies announce that both Jason Levien and Stu Lash are out. Chris Wallace to be interim head of basketball operations.— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 19, 2014
Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski says Grizzlies and Timberwolves brass have "begun discussions on possible compensation for letting Joerger out of his contract." Barring an unexpected turn of events—which you cannot rule out when it comes to Memphis at this point—Joerger will not be coaching the Grizzlies next year. That honor is something those in charge hope belongs to Van Gundy.
Or, if you believe Grantland's Bill Simmons, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau:
Hearing that, if the Grizz totally clean house, the Memphis owner will look to trade for Tom Thibodeau + give him an SVG/Pistons-type deal.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 19, 2014
Convincing Van Gundy to spurn his gig with ESPN stands to be much easier than prying Coach Thibs from the Chicago Bulls. But that doesn't make such an endeavor easy overall.
Gauging Van Gundy's interest in the proposed undertaking is difficult, because as Stein notes, the veteran sideline wanderer has been "consistent in his reluctance to publicly discuss job openings." When one considers his past behavior, Van Gundy is unlikely to comment on Memphis' interest or vacancy until, you know, it's actually vacant.
Upon finally acknowledging the situation at hand, there's also no guarantee he would be interested. The Grizzlies are not the poster team for off-court stability at the moment, so Van Gundy has to be sure he won't share a fate similar to that of Hollins and Joerger.
Offering him the role of team president is a good place to start. Such power was enough for his brother, Stan, to inherit the Detroit Pistons' haplessly constructed roster. It could be enough for the always outspoken Jeff to bring his candor Memphis' way—provided he's open to an NBA return in the first place.
It appears he is.
Would Jeff Van Gundy be a good fit for the Grizzlies?
“If Phil Jackson ever wanted to talk basketball with me, which, listen, who knows if that's true, but if he ever did, of course I would take the time, because I'm sure I could benefit from the conversation,” he told Ian O'Connor of the New York Knicks' head coach opening on ESPN Radio’s The Ian O’Connor Show (via ESPN New York's Ian Begley).
Memphis isn't New York, and Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera isn't the Zen Master, but if the Grizzlies are lucky, dangling loads of organizational control will go a long way.
And if it doesn't, if Van Gundy says no, the Grizzlies are left to embrace their latest, weirdest rallying cry: on to the next one.