Justin Norris | Staff Writer
The Memphis Grizzlies fired coach David Fizdale after just 19 games into the 2017-2018 season. He coached the Grizzlies to a playoff berth in his first season as a head coach and was in the second year of a four-year, $10.2 million contract.
This season, under Fizdale, the team was in the midst of an eight-game losing streak and had lost 11 of their past 13. The Grizzlies’ firing of Fizdale came on the heels of him benching star center Marc Gasol in the fourth quarter of a 98-88 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
The decision to get rid of the coach has become extremely controversial, and many around the NBA have spoken out in support of Fizdale.
LeBron James, who played for Fizdale while he was an assistant coach in Miami, tweeted, “I need some answers. Feels like my man was a fall guy.”
That sentiment has been echoed by other players and media. On First Take, Stephen A. Smith called the Grizzlies’ decision “a bogus firing. There’s no excuse for it, and they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Fizdale’s tenure in Memphis was plagued by various injuries to key rotation players. Franchise point guard Mike Conley has missed the team’s past seven games this season, which obviously coincides with their losing streak.
Small forward Chandler Parsons, who agreed to a four-year, $94 million contract before the start of last season, has been frequently injured since signing with the team. Due to Parsons’ inability to stay on the floor, his contract has been viewed as an albatross for the team.
The Grizzlies were also notorious for using their slow-paced, “Grit and Grind” style of play, while the majority of the NBA embraced a more up-tempo style that emphasized positionless basketball and 3-pointers. The aging roster Fizdale was in charge of was ill-equipped to adapt to the modern NBA due to the dearth of talent at his disposal.
It appears that Fizdale’s rocky relationship with Gasol played a significant role in his dismissal as well.
The Grizzlies’ front office has a track record for firing successful coaches.
Since 2013, the organization has let go of Lionel Hollins, Dave Joerger and Fizdale. Hollins led the team to a 56-26 record and a Western Conference Finals appearance the year before he was let go. Joerger guided the team to three consecutive trips to the postseason. Fizdale coached an aging roster to a competitive first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs last season.
J.B. Bickerstaff was named interim head coach. Whomever the Grizzlies name as their next head coach will be interesting, because regardless of accomplishments or achievements, the head coach of the Grizzlies seems to have little-to-no job security.