Lionel Hollins is clear about what steps he needs to take to succeed in the daunting task of leading the Memphis Grizzlies to respectability.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge," Hollins said at a news
conference on Sunday to introduce him as the Grizzlies new coach.
"I believe that I have a vision of what it takes to win. I want to
come in here and try to lay a groundwork of work ethic, of sharing
the ball, of playing defense, playing hard.
"I will be demanding, and I'll have high expectations."
Hollins, a former assistant with the Grizzlies, was serving as
an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks when Memphis coach Marc
Iavaroni was fired Thursday. Hollins was scheduled to hold practice
with his new team later Sunday. His first game at the helm will be
Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets.
The team declined to discuss terms of his contract.
Hollins had two previous stints as the Grizzlies coach, both on
an interim basis. He was 0-4 in 2004-05 when he bridged the gap
between Hubie Brown's resignation and the hiring of Mike Fratello.
He finished the 1999-2000 season after the firing of Brian Hill,
going 18-42. Hollins was part of the Grizzlies coaching staff from
1995, when the franchise started in Vancouver, until 2007.
Hollins said having the permanent title rather than the interim
tag will enable him to install a system.
"Any time there's an interim tag in front of someone's name,
the players feel like it's the substitute teacher. They feel like
it's time to play, and they don't have to do their work the same
way," Hollins said.
"No matter how hard you try, there's always a few who aren't
going to be on board because they know you're not truly the boss."
Iavaroni was fired after 1½ seasons, compiling a record of
33-90. He became the seventh coach fired in the NBA this season.
Hollins inherits a team that has lost 17 of its last 19 games,
including nine straight. The Grizzlies have failed to reach 100
points in any of the losses during the skid, and scored 90 points
only once. The setbacks have been by an average of 12.5 points, and
only once in the streak has Memphis kept the deficit under
Changing that mind-set is one of the primary goals facing
Hollins. He said it may take lineup changes, challenging players to
play harder or becoming more team-oriented.
"We're going to jump in and try to do it all," Hollins said.
"I'm looking to establish an identity defensively and offensively
from Day 1. How long that takes, I don't know.
"I'm not concerned with the wins and losses as much as I'm
concerned with the progress we make, how hard we play, how well we play together. And if we're talented enough to steal some games,
Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley acknowledged that he talked to
former Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson about the job. When
Johnson declined, Hollins was his next choice, the owner said. In
addition to changing the attitude, Heisley said it is about staying
on his plan of turning the Grizzlies around with young players and
the draft over the next three years.
"I thought Lionel would be a very good person for us to bring
in with these young players," Heisley said.
Hollins talked little about specific players, but did say he
would like better play from his point guards. Mike Conley, the
fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft, is sharing time with Kyle
Lowry. Hollins said it is "atrocious" that the Grizzlies have the
worst turnover average in the league. Conley appears to have the
edge in Hollins' mind.
"I want to see if Mike Conley is a basketball player on a high
level," the new coach said. "I'm going to give him a lot of
pushing and give him a lot of freedom to make decisions and see if
he can do it."
That appears to be Hollins' goal for the rest of the season, as
the Grizzlies want to evaluate players to prepare for offseason
moves that will take the franchise forward.
"We're going to coach, going to teach, we're going to demand,"
Hollins said. "It's going to be difficult. That's what makes
coaching nice is because it is challenging.
"Try to get them to step outside of the spirit they have now
and step into a new spirit. We're going to push and we're going to
demand and we're going to show them this is the way you win."
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