Sports 56 WHBlog Q

January 26, 2009

On Lionel Hollins and Double Standards…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Peter Edmiston @ 11:38 am

The Grizzlies made it official yesterday.  Lionel Hollins is back with the franchise he’s spent a decade with – this time as the head coach.  Not the interim coach, but the official actual head coach.  He’s signed a one and a half year deal.  All of that is done.

The reaction to it is instructive of what is happening with Grizzlies coverage of late.  There is a not particularly subtle lean on the part of some to destroy Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley at any available opportunity.  You’ve probably already seen the latest example – a column written this morning by Geoff Calkins completely hatcheting Heisley for orchestrating the hire of Lionel Hollins, among other things.   The column is in many ways emblematic of a school of thought among some that cover the Grizzlies and, by extension, some of the fans who read/listen to what they write/say.

The chief tenet of this school of thought is that things would somehow be better if Michael Heisley had sold the team to a group of local owners.  The facts, however, don’t support this at all.  The local ownership group never ponied up with a serious, legitimate offer (one which did not include either unworkable provisions or a severely lowered price), so the discussion is a non-starter.  When Michael Heisley made a capital call to the local owners a little less than a year ago, inviting them to pay the requisite percentage of the franchise’s losses (as they had agreed to), or have their stake in the team lowered from 30% to 5.8%, they didn’t pay one dime of losses.  Do those actions fit the profile of an owner who would spend a lot of money if they were in charge?  Of course not.  But logic doesn’t prevail in the world of the Heisley haters.

And incidentally, what exactly should Heisley be spending money on at this point?  He’s got a roster that is being built, by design, to be full of rookies and young players right now.  Those players do not make much money.  The Collective Bargaining Agreement rookie scale determines what they make.  Should Heisley pay O.J. Mayo $12 million just to show he can?  Why pay more when you don’t have to?  In a year or two, when Rudy Gay’s contract comes up, if Heisley refuses to pay him, then bitch all you want.  If he lets O.J. Mayo go, or trades him away solely to avoid paying him, then we will all yell and scream, and justifiably so.  But what would you have him spend money on now?  He tried to sign Josh Smith in the offseason – Atlanta matched the offer sheet.  Nothing you can do about that.  Who was out there last season other than Smith that would have been a huge help?  Elton Brand?  The Sixers have been better without him this year.  Monta Ellis?  His situation turned disastrous.  Baron Davis?  Check the Clippers – they’re one of the only teams worse than the Grizzlies.  So you tell me – what should he have done?  This is year 1 of the three-year plan.  Calm down.

These people only bring up locality when they deem it relevant.  It’s a shame to them that the Memphis Grizzlies don’t have local owners because local people (somehow) understand local things better.  It’s a complete tragedy when Shane Battier is traded because he lived on Harbor Town and he was seen locally sometimes!  The Grizzlies need to keep assistant coach Ron DuBois around because his wife works at St. Jude (he is not staying around, by the way).  But does it matter that Pau Gasol’s father works at St. Jude, or that his mom (also a doctor) and his family have spent years being part of the local community, including Marc’s years at Lausanne?  Of course not – you never heard about that when they were killing Pau.  Does it matter that Michael Heisley has sunk tens of millions of dollars into Memphis-based charities, particularly St. Jude (via the Grizzlies House) and the Memphis Athletic Ministries?  No way – he’s from Chicago, so that’s irrelevant.  And does it matter one bit that Lionel Hollins’s wife and son never left Memphis, that Lionel spent time and money yearly to raise funds for local schools via the Bowling for Backpacks program, that when Bucks coach Scott Skiles was asked about why he was happy for Lionel Hollins, he said, “I’m really happy for him.  He gets to go home.” – does any of that matter with Hollins?  No.  Have you seen a word of that written or spoken outside of this article or on the Morning Rush?  Absolutely not.  It’s a double standard.

None of this means that Hollins will be successful.  He may fail miserably.  But he’s more qualified now than Marc Iavaroni was when he was hired.  And let’s take you back to Geoff Calkins’ take on Iavaroni’s hire at the time:

“In the meantime, the Grizzlies have hired the hottest assistant in the league, a guy who has been mentioned in connection with nearly every NBA job. He’s smart, he’s pedigreed and he’s about as ready as anyone could possibly be. ”

What was that pedigree, exactly? He had about 10 years of assistant coaching experience of varying degrees and was a decent NBA player prior to that.  He was also 50 years old when he took the Grizzlies gig.  Hollins has been an assistant for a lot longer (18 yrs vs. 10 yrs), has actually served as head coach for 64 games, was far more successful as a player, and is actually a resident of (and taxpayer of) the city of Memphis.  But you didn’t see a glowing review today, did you?  Of course not.  It’s another double standard.

He’s got 39 games left this year.  Why don’t we all just see what he can do with them?



  1. Thanks for writing something positive for a change. So there is more than one way to look at things how weird is that.

    Comment by Morgan — January 26, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

  2. I really enjoyed this piece. I’d love nothing more than to see a big “Welcome Home Coach Hollis” sign at the first home game. I think he deserves a fair shake, and that thus far, that really isn’t happening.

    Comment by Robert — January 26, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  3. Peter- The capital call wasn’t matched by the local owners after their offer to buy the team was rejected out of hand. I can understand the local owners reluctance to pony up more money after being dismissed out of hand in an attempt to buy him out completely.

    I understand Mr. Heisley’s refusal of the offer. The local owners were going to ‘raise’ the funds instead of having them already arranged. Heisley had already gone down that road with the Dukies and he didn’t want to go there again.

    However, I also understand the local owners frustration. Heisley wanted to add into the value of the franchise many items that seem difficult to comprehend at face value such as valuing the NBA China league at an extremely large amount without it having played a single game yet. All NBA owners have a 1/30th interest in that league so placing a number on that league can have a huge impact on the financing needed.

    Nothing is as simple as it seems when it comes to the ownership situation with the Grizzlies including the gag orders in place about the negotiations.

    Also the charitable work Heisley has done in the city means a lot to Mr. Heisley and he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for it but neither did the local owners who spearheaded the campaign and led the activity. They are still doing this despite their interest in the franchise being severely reduced.

    Sometimes things don’t go as hoped. The relationship between Heisley, his attorney Stan Meadows and the local owners is broken and that makes it more sensible to part ways than to continue as things were going. No one is a bad person in this situation it is just unfortunate a fair agreement couldn’t be reached by both sides.

    Comment by Chip Crain — January 26, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

  4. How dare Calkins try to hold griz management accountable for giving memphians one of the worst franchises in pro sports.One thats a national joke and no good player or coach want anything to do with this org.Shame on Calkins,he should be trashing the tigers like you and Tillery do all the time,then you guys will be saying how great he is.

    Comment by mike tramel — January 26, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

  5. Hiring and keeping people just because they live in Memphis might be the dumbest sports view for a pro sports team ever. Who cares if I guys family lives in Memphis, if they cant produce wins then they shouldnt have a job just like any other job in the world. Should companies like FedEx only hire people that were born and currently live in Memphis. Should they never look out side of the city to try and find more talented people. I do hate that Ron DuBois was let go but more b/c he is a great young basketball mind not b/c his wife works at St.Jude and I think that is the greatest thing in the world for someone to do but you cant base Prosports hirings on what peoples spouces do. I just think this “Double Standard” idea is so way off base and makes no sense at all.

    Comment by Timmy D — January 27, 2009 @ 12:37 am

  6. I’ve heard Peter and Ron make several comments about how no legitimate offer was made by the local ownership group. How about some numbers? Until I hear exactly what was offered, I don’t believe a word of it.

    I enjoy their show, but Peter and Ron clearly have some sort of agenda concerning Michael Heisley. Their recent commentary has not been objective.

    Comment by Michael — January 27, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  7. […] the long-term implications, it’s going to be a fascinating litmus test for Michael Heisley.  I’ve written before about the fact that Michael Heisley gets a bad rap for being frugal.  He’s spent money […]

    Pingback by A Financial Grizaster? « Sports 56 WHBlog Q — February 16, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

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