Memphis Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien didn’t exactly put to rest the rumors of Lionel Hollins’ departure in an interview with the media following the Grizzlies exit from the Western Conference Finals. Levien danced around the issue of Hollins future in Memphis for three minutes, never giving more than lukewarm praise for the Grizzlies coach.
Since Brooklyn Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo was fired less than 24 hours after a game 7 playoff loss to the Chicago Bulls in April, Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins has been climbing the Nets coaching rumor mill.
One might think Hollins is a lock to return as the Grizzlies head coach, given the franchise’s first trip to the Western Conference Finals this season and the team’s improved record in each of the four seasons since Hollins took over the squad for his third stint as Grizzlies head coach in 2008-09.
But Memphis ownership hasn’t extended Holins’ contract — set to expire on June 30 — and Nets owner/Russian billionaire oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov can certainly outbid Grizzlies ownership if he decides that Hollins is his man.
You can watch the video of Levien’s interview thanks to Fox’s Memphis affiliate here . The New York Post‘s Tim Bontemps provides the transcript:
“Question: Have you been approached by teams who would like to speak with Lionel?
Answer: At this point, Lionel is our coach, and I wouldn’t comment on that
Question: If you were approached by teams, would you allow them to talk to him?
Answer: I think I’m probably better off not engaging in hypotheticals at this point. That’s not something we’ve focused on … the season is 18 hours old, and certainly Lionel was a great asset to us, and he was here long before we got here and we’re very proud of the way the team performed and certainly disappointed by the ending. It was an emotional evening and an emotional day today with the players, and that’s where our focus has been.
Question: Do you want [Hollins] back?
Answer: I think what I would say at this point is … up to this point, we said we didn’t want to negotiate or talk about his contract status publicly and I think we’re going to stick with that. Certainly we admire the job he’s done, and it was very helpful and very positive, we had a long conversation last night in his office, Robert, myself and Lionel, talking about the team and the community and the organization and sort of what the potential is for it. I thought that was a very positive conversation on the heels of a very emotional ending to the season.
Question: Does [this process] play out within a week, bringing him back or not?
Answer: I don’t want to put a timeframe on it, because I wouldn’t want to box ourselves in. Certainly he’s under contract, as many have reported, until the end of June, but we want to move quickly because we have important steps towards thinking about the future.
Question: Do you intend to make an offer before that timeframe [the end of June] is up?
Answer: Again, I think we’d stick to our policy of not commenting on the negotiations or the discussions around his contract.
Question: That was during the season, but now that the season is over, any difference?
Answer: I don’t think it makes sense for us to comment publicly on it. If we have, or when we submit an offer to him, to let you all know that, the timing of the response back and forth, I don’t think it’s advantageous for us to do that. I don’t anticipate us publicly announcing where we are in that process.”
ed. note: did you catch Levien saying that Hollins “was” a great asset? He’s speaking in past tense. Not a ringing endorsement.
Hollins has made it known that he wants to stay in Memphis, but does Grizzlies ownership want him back?
Read more: Tim Bontemps – – New York Post Grizzlies CEO dances around questions about bringing back Nets target Hollins as coach