What do former players say about Lionel Hollins?

Tayshaun Prince, Mike Conley, Lionel Hollins
How will the Nets run under Lionel Hollins? (AP)
Tayshaun Prince, Mike Conley, Lionel Hollins
New Nets coach Lionel Hollins. (AP)

Lionel Hollins spent parts of seven seasons with the Grizzlies franchise, both in Vancouver and Memphis. But what have his players and co-workers said about him?

Here’s a collection of quotes from Grizzlies players, former executives, and one assistant coach that Hollins had a rift with, about Hollins’s style and impact.

Marc Gasol:

when Lionel (Hollins) came, he changed our mindset. He protected his players and said, “Hey, let’s get to work, do things right and try to win games.” And when you win games, people forget if this guy or that guy was a good pick or not. Mike Conley learned to work in that situation, to improve and use the pressure as motivation. Then, as you get older, you don’t care as much about what people say.

Do you think Lionel Hollins has given this team extra wins?

MG: Yes, yes, yes. No doubt about it. One of the reasons why we’ve had success, won playoff games and came close to playing the conference finals is Lionel’s mentality. He’s a top-notch coach in the NBA. Obviously he’s also learning on the job, but he’s a very reasonable, honest and hard-working coach.

Mike Conley:

I think people might know who he is, but what is he like in the locker room or at practice? He’s intense, man. He’s a guy who speaks his mind. He’s pretty straightforward. He’s not afraid to fight a player or anybody. So he’s definitely somebody that you don’t want to mess with.

Do you think you could take him if you had to?

Um… yeah. Don’t tell him I said that, though.

Zach Randolph, denying rumors of a rift between him and Hollins (Hollins had benched him for being late to a shootaround):

“Our relationship is fine. I respect my coach.”

Rudy Gay:

(He meant “can’t.”)

Hamed Haddadi, on a blowup Hollins had at him in practice:

“It happened. I’m here with him five years now and he’s always like that. He just wants me to work harder. Sometimes, I want to work hard. Sometimes, his way isn’t evident. So, he gets mad at me. I’m used to it. I push him away and I’ll just work harder.”

John Nash, former Portland Trail Blazers GM:

“He’s a man’s coach. That’s why all his players love him.”

Barry Hecker, former Hollins assistant whose relationship with Hollins deteriorated:

Hollins and Hecker argued. Finally, Hecker said, “I stood up and said to him, ‘Lionel, you don’t want to hear the truth. You don’t want to know what the hell is going on.’ Bottom line is, I said, ‘I am tired of the bull—-, I am just going to walk out of here right now.’ I never said quit or anything.”

But Hecker did walk out of the meeting, and as far as Hollins was concerned, he had quit. Hecker, though, walked to Grizzlies human resources and complained about the treatment he had been getting, requesting mediation with Hollins.

Shortly after that, Hecker spoke with his lawyer, and the Grizzlies informed him that he had been let go.

“Why would you hire a guy with no wins in the NBA and get rid of another guy who took you to 56 wins? Just from a strict business standpoint, why? They were afraid of Lionel, because they couldn’t control Lionel. … Joerger, because he had worked it so hard, they felt comfortable with him. They said they didn’t need Lionel, they could just hire (Joerger). He was taking all the credit, basically, anyway.”

With help from Benjamin Nadeau