Grizzlies may chase Jeff Van Gundy

ByMarc Stein ESPN logo
Sunday, May 25, 2014

One of the prime options under consideration by the Memphis Grizzlies in the wake of last week's management shakeup and the looming departure of Dave Joerger to the Minnesota Timberwolves is making a run at Jeff Van Gundy to be their coach and run their front office, according to NBA coaching sources.

Sources told that the Grizzlies have serious interest in trying to convince Van Gundy to serve as coach and team president in a job structure modeled after the new dual role brother Stan Van Gundy has secured with the Detroit Pistons.

Jeff Van Gundy's interest in that sort of undertaking -- or the Grizzlies specifically in the wake of all their recent turmoil -- is unclear, with the former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach and current ESPN analyst consistent in his reluctance to publicly discuss job openings. But after the ousting of CEO Jason Levien and with Joerger poised to leave, the immediate challenge for Grizzlies owner Robert Pera is convincing prospective candidates that they'll be walking into a stable situation.

Other names on Memphis' list of potential coach hires, sources say, include Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Alvin Gentry and ESPN analyst George Karl, both of whom interviewed for the post before Joerger's hiring. Sources say Gentry has already interviewed for the job openings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz this month.

The Grizzlies technically still have a coach, but coaching sources continue to describe Joerger's move to Minnesota to succeed Rick Adelman with the Timberwolves as an inevitability. reported Thursday that the Wolves had made "significant progress" in their bid to hire Joerger away from Memphis, which sources say continued Saturday after Joerger met face-to-face with Wolves owner Glen Taylor.

The Wolves ultimately will have to satisfy Memphis' compensation demands to release Joerger from his contract, but the Grizzlies don't appear to be in a strong position to haggle, with sources insisting that Pera does not want to bring Joerger back next season regardless. reported Monday that Pera contemplated firing Joerger early in the Minnesota native's first season on the bench after he replaced the popular Lionel Hollins. Sources said Pera's dissatisfaction with Joerger so early in the season was one of the factors that led to the breakdown in the owner's relationship with Levien, who was abruptly fired last week along with assistant general manager Stu Lash despite brokering much of Pera's purchase of the team from the late Michael Heisley in June 2012.

Levien was Joerger's biggest supporter when the decision was made after last season's 56 wins and a trip to the Western Conference finals not to award Hollins a new contract. The Grizzlies overcame a woeful start -- triggered in part by a Marc Gasol knee injury -- to go 50-32 under Joerger and extend the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. The Grizzlies had to play that Game 7 without the suspended Zach Randolph.

Joerger has been close for years with Timberwolves president and part-owner Flip Saunders, who, like Joerger, broke through as a coach in the NBA after working in the minor leagues first.