The briefly open relationship between the Memphis Grizzlies and head coach Dave Joerger reset curiously this week when the Minnesota Timberwolves did not hire him away. Hall pass thus revoked, Joerger came back and made nice with his bosses, who, if this delightful bit of reportage by SI's Chris Mannix is to be believed, are clods of the most tone-deaf sort.
Donald Sterling's one-man mission to get the Greatest Generation renamed might be the best sort of distraction from this hot mess in Memphis; if you're not up on it, here's the gist.
In truth, the Grizzlies are a mess. They have a coach, Dave Joerger, who wanted to be the coach, then didn't want to be the coach, then wanted to coach Minnesota, then, on Sunday, decided to come back and coach Memphis. They have an owner that hired Joerger, then wanted to fire him, then let him interview with Minnesota, then welcomed him back. They have no CEO, no assistant general manager and the front office is being run by a GM, Chris Wallace, who has not been involved in the day-to-day operations of the team for more than a year.
Joerger's a pretty good coach, and a mainstay with the Grizz. After he arrived in 2007 as an assistant, the team's year-by-year winning percentage went from .268 to .293, to .488, to .561, to .621, to .683 in 2013. He presided over a 50-32 season this year, in his first as a head coach, in the "Beat It" video switchblade fight that was the Western Conference.
That campaign was almost smothered in the cradle for the dumbest reasons possible. According to Mannix's sources, Memphis owner Robert Pera (that's him rockin' the 2 o'clock shadow above) has had it in for Joerger ever since the coach didn't support Pera's dream of playing one-on-one against Tony Allen last summer. Pera, a tech zillionaire, apparently got carried away with the notion, and made big production plans for this pick-up game that Allen never really picked up on. Pera, affronted, blamed Joerger and wanted him gone. Then the Grizzlies stumbled to a perfectly ordinary 2-3 start out of the gate, and Pera lobbied to shitcan the first-year head coach.
That's when things went from ugly to sitcomedic. Again, this from Mannix:
Pera flew to Memphis and held individual meetings with players, sources say. He began offering bizarre suggestions. He suggested Mike Miller, a longtime Grizzlies player who was re-signed in the offseason, could become a player-coach. He brought up the idea that Joerger could wear an NFL-style headset and take instructions on the sideline. When the Grizzlies faced Golden State in early November, Pera insisted that Joerger give significant minutes to fourth-year power forward Ed Davis. Davis played just one. Again, according to sources, Pera insisted that Joerger had to go. Only after it was explained how dysfunctional the franchise would look if it fired a first year head coach six games into the season did Pera back down.
Awesome as it would've been to see Mike Miller as the league's first player-coach since the '70s ... maybe it's better for Pera that he didn't get his way on that one. And a headset would look like one of those monkey-backpack leashes parents use on their rugrats at airports. What he did do, after the season cooled, was to let Joerger flirt with the Timberwolves, apparently on the premise that Minnesota might pay to take the coach off his hands. Minnesota, however, knew how badly the coach and the owner had feuded, and didn't think opening a checkbook was necessary. (The Wolves just capped their ninth straight losing season. Making it rain is not their M.O.) Or maybe Joerger surveyed the situation and decided the devil he knows is better than freezing his ass in South Canada while Kevin Love likely plays in (insert name of any other North American city).
Then, this just in: Pera says Mannix is full of shit! And Mannix replies, "due respect," that in fact Pera is the one who's full of shit!
Somewhere, Zach Randolph shakes his head and mutters something about why we can't all just get along.
Photo credit of Robert Pera: AP