The latest: ESPN’s Chris Broussard reports that current Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins would be in the mix for the Brooklyn Nets coaching position, should the Grizzlies decide not to bring Hollins back for next season.
The skinny: A 6th overall pick in the 1975 NBA Draft, Hollins enjoyed a ten-year playing career with five different teams before entering the coaching world in 1985 as an assistant with Arizona State University. Hollins went to work as an assistant for the Phoenix Suns from 1988-1995 and worked as a head coach for the first time with the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1999-2000 season.
After two coaching stints in other professional basketball leagues, Hollins returned to coach the Grizzlies for a second time in 2004 as an interim head coach, losing all four games before Mike Fratello took over in his place. In 2009, Hollins joined Memphis for the third time, taking a full-time coaching job with the Grizzlies. The team has made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, and the team’s record has improved in each season since he took the job full-time.
Hollins has an old-school mentality and approach to coaching. Memphis Grizzlies center and Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol said in an interview with HoopsHype that Hollins protects his players, “changed our mindset” for the better, and is a “very reasonable, honest and hard-working coach.” He has clashed with Grizzlies management as someone who coaches by “feel,” rather than looking at analytics or statistics. The team’s defense has always been good under Hollins’s thumb, but Hollins has also taken criticism for an uncreative approach to offense that eschews three-point attempts (though that criticism waned after the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay, a player Hollins liked).
The verdict: Hollins is a solid coach and a motivator, and the Grizzlies seem to enjoy playing under him. He also could help the Nets’ defensive issues. But an uncreative approach to offense and his wariness about analytics gives me pause. What worries me about Lionel Hollins is not his old-school approach, but his insistence that that approach can’t coexist with analytics. He could be an answer, but he shouldn’t be a top candidate.
Next: Phil Jackson
Larry Brown | Mike Dunleavy | Lionel Hollins | Phil Jackson | Nate McMillan | Doc Rivers | Brian Shaw | Scott Skiles | Jerry Sloan | Jeff Van Gundy | Stan Van Gundy