NBA coaching carousel: Grizzlies, Kings, Cavs making changes on sidelines


The Memphis Grizzlies started the off-season with plenty of questions to answer, then controlling owner Robert Pera added to the to-do list by firing coach J.B. Bickerstaff as part of a front-office shake-up that demoted general manager Chris Wallace to scout.

The Grizzlies announced the moves after both Bickerstaff and Wallace spoke to reporters following a second straight season outside the playoffs. After a 12-5 start, Memphis plummeted and finished 33-49, tied with New Orleans and Dallas.

Wallace had said earlier that Bickerstaff would be returning after doing a “terrific job.” But Pera didn’t agree and restructured the front office a few hours later.

“In order to put our team on the path to sustainable success, it was necessary to change our approach to basketball operations,” Pera said in a statement. “I look forward to a re-energized front office and fresh approach to Memphis Grizzlies basketball under new leadership, while retaining the identity and values that have distinguished our team.”

Bickerstaff was named interim coach in November 2017 after the Grizzlies fired David Fizdale . He was given the job without the interim title last May. Now Memphis is looking for a fourth head coach since choosing not to renew Lionel Hollins’ contract after he led the Grizzlies to their lone Western Conference final appearance in 2013.

The Grizzlies spent much of the season trying to finish outside the top eight spots in the draft to finally pay off a 2015 mid-season trade for Jeff Green that still requires a first-round pick to be sent to Boston. The selection is protected if Memphis finished anywhere from No. 1 to 8 in the draft, and the Grizzlies want to fulfill that obligation this June.

Memphis wound up in a three-way tie with Dallas and New Orleans for the 7-9 position. 

Cavs, Drew agree to part ways

The Cavaliers parted ways with Drew, who took over as coach in October and led the club to 19 wins amid a swarm of injuries in Cleveland’s first season since LeBron James left as a free agent.

The Cavs tied for the NBA’s second-worst record, but Drew earned praise for keeping his team competitive despite a young roster and only having all-star forward Kevin Love for 22 games because of injuries.

Larry Drew, right, disputes a call with a referee in the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers in March. (David Dermer/Associated Press)

“We have great respect and appreciation for Larry and the job that he did as the head coach of the Cavaliers for nearly the entire 2018-19 campaign. He brought professionalism, class and steady leadership both this past season and prior four years,” general manager Koby Altman said in a release. “Larry and I had a productive discussion about this past season, the future of the franchise and the search process that we will shortly launch regarding the head coaching role.

“Larry respectfully declined to participate in the search process and will not be returning to coach the Cavaliers. All of us in Cleveland wish Larry nothing but the best going forward.”

Drew took over when Tyronn Lue was fired Oct. 28 following a 0-6 start. 

When he replaced Lue, Drew knew the Cavs might go in another direction at some point and asked the team to restructure his contract.

“I want to thank [owner] Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, the entire organization, and especially our fans, for what has been a very special and rewarding time here in Cleveland,” Drew said. “Koby and I had a good discussion following the season and have both decided that the best decision for each of us was that I would not return to coach the team. I am very proud of what we accomplished over the last several years together and will always cherish our championship.”

The Sacramento Kings fired coach Dave Joerger after three losing seasons. The team announced the decision Thursday after finishing its 13th straight losing season. (Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press)

Kings’ ransom

Dave Joerger had a 98-148 record since joining the Kings, but also helped the team reach its best record in 13 seasons this year with 39 wins. But it wasn’t enough to earn him a fourth season in hopes of ending the NBA’s longest active playoff drought. Sacramento last made the playoffs in 2006 in coach Rick Adelman’s final season.

“After evaluating the season, I determined that we need to move in a different direction in order to take us to the next level,” general manager Vlade Divac said. “On behalf of the entire Kings organization, I want to thank Dave for his contributions to our team and I wish him all the best.”

Divac made the move official just hours after he was given an extension through the 2022-23 season by owner Vivek Ranadive. Divac took over as GM before the 2015-16 season and helped bring in some of the key pieces that have led to the improvement this year, including guards Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox and big men Marvin Bagley III, Willie Cauley-Stein and Harry Giles.

Joerger was the ninth coach since Adelman was fired in 2006 with none able to post a winning record or a playoff berth. In fact, since moving to Sacramento before the 1985-86 season, the only winning seasons for the Kings came in Adelman’s eight seasons at the helm highlighted by a trip to the Western Conference final in 2002.

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