The Memphis Grizzlies fired coach David Fizdale on Monday, one day after the team dropped to 7-12 on the season, including eight straight losses.
Associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who was 37-34 as an interim coach with the Houston Rockets in 2015-16, has been promoted to interim head coach.
What’s next for Conley, Gasol and Memphis after coaching change?
Memphis has two stars in Mike Conley and Marc Gasol but few ways to improve around them. Is a rebuild inevitable even after David Fizdale’s firing, or can the Grizzlies keep the Grit ‘n’ Grind era alive?
Grizzlies’ Gasol miffed about benching in fourth
Marc Gasol was surprised and frustrated Sunday after he was not reinserted into the game once the Grizzlies were back in it against the Nets in the fourth quarter of a loss.
“After a thorough evaluation, I decided a change in course was necessary to move forward and provide the team and organization its best chance at success this season and beyond,” general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement. “Coach Fizdale represented the Grizzlies and City of Memphis proudly, and we wish him well as he continues his career.”
Fizdale’s firing comes after his tepid relationship with All-Star center Marc Gasol reached a low point with Gasol’s fourth-quarter benching in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night.
Gasol, given a maximum deal by the Grizzlies in July 2015, leads the Grizzlies in points, rebounds and assists, and he was an All-Star in Fizdale’s inaugural season. But the center spent plenty of time after the game making it clear to reporters how upset he was at sitting out a full quarter.
“It’s a first for me, trust me, and I don’t like it one bit,” Gasol said. “I’m more [ticked] than I can show and frustrated.”
Fizdale explained his decision before Gasol spoke in the locker room and said he simply was trying to win a game while sticking with his reserves. Fizdale said taking a risk as head coach means sometimes upsetting a player or two.
“If I’m not on the floor, I’m not valued,” Gasol said. “I’m sure [the coaching staff] knew that would hurt me the most.”
Gasol’s brother, Pau Gasol of the San Antonio Spurs, insisted after the news broke that Marc Gasol was not the driving force behind the decision to replace Fizdale.
“Marc is a competitor and he wants to play,” Pau Gasol said. “Now with Mike [Conley] out, he’s the guy without question. For him not to go back in that fourth quarter, was not OK. Obviously you read the comments after the game that I also read on ESPN.com. It’s weird the timing of it. I don’t think Marc had anything to do with the decision.”
Fizdale’s firing caught the NBA by surprise. Dwyane Wade, who played with the Miami Heat when Fizdale was an assistant coach, wrote on Twitter that he needed answers.
LeBron James retweeted a comment on Twitter calling the firing so stunning that the writer triple-checked the original report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski to make sure he wasn’t being duped by a fake account.
I need some answers. Feels like my man was a fall guy
— LeBron James (@KingJames) November 27, 2017
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he was “shocked” by the firing.
“I think David Fizdale is one of the best coaches in the league,” Kerr said. “He’s a brilliant guy, he’s got an edge to him, he’s tough, he’s smart. Their whole team is injured, Mike Conley is out. Like, this is what happens, you lose when your best players are out and when your whole team is wiped out. It caught me off guard.”
Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts called Fizdale’s firing very disappointing.
“Losing in this league and not meeting expectations in this league takes its toll on everybody,” Stotts said before a game in New York. “Owners, general managers, coaches, players. And handling that is a strain on relationships, and it’s disappointing. It’s probably the most difficult part of being in the NBA, is managing that part of the season.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue agreed with Stotts, referring to Fizdale’s firing as “not right.”
“To pick up and move his family there, leave a good situation in Miami, where they were winning. He was a part of those championships,” Lue said. “And then when you have an opportunity, I thought he did a great job. A lot of guys thought he did a great job. For this to happen to him, to a good person, to his family, it’s not right. I feel for him, but he did a helluva job.”
Fizdale became the franchise’s 13th head coach on May 29, 2016, compiling a 50-51 record in his tenure. He is owed $3 million for the 2018-19 season on his contract, league sources told ESPN. The Grizzlies possessed a team option for the 2019-20 season, the final of his original four-year contract.
The Grizzlies advanced to the Western Conference playoffs last season under Fizdale, going 43-39 in the regular season.
The Grizzlies have scheduled a news conference with Bickerstaff for Tuesday at 10 a.m.
Information from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Associated Press was used in this report.