Mutual animosity led to Dave Joerger's firing, per sources

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Memphis Grizzlies have fired Dave Joerger after three seasons as coach, the team announced Saturday.

"The decision was made because I believe you need a deeply committed leadership team in order to establish the strong culture needed for sustainable long-term success," general manager Chris Wallace said in a Q&A on the team's website. "I don't want to get into specifics, but our goal now is to identify the best candidate for our organization."

Wallace said he made the final decision to fire Joerger. He commended the coach's in-game management but said, "being an NBA head coach is about more than just coaching a 48-minute game."

Sources close to the situation confirmed to ESPN that a divide between Joerger and the Grizzlies' front office had been growing for some time.

Grizzlies management believed Joerger was not fully invested in coaching in Memphis and had been getting indications of that all season, sources said. The Grizzlies were also frustrated by Joerger's veiled swipes at the front office in the media.

Joerger, on the other hand, felt that he did not have management's full support, according to sources, a sentiment he believes began when he interviewed for the Minnesota Timberwolves' head-coaching job two years ago.

Sources told ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz that Joerger's camp was also worried about his job security after the trade deadline, when the Grizzlies dealt away Jeff Green and Courtney Lee and received P.J. Hairston, Chris Andersen, Lance Stephensonand a slew of future draft picks. Joerger's camp was concerned over what the substance and handling of those transactions signaled about the Grizzlies' future.

A source told ESPN's Chris Broussard that the Grizzlies entered the offseason with plans to keep Joerger, who was under contract for next season with a team option for 2017-18. But Friday night, the front office, feeling that Joerger was growing more and more distant, decided to move on.

"Both sides have to take a look in the mirror," one source said. "Neither side is innocent in this. But it's better that it's been resolved now rather than later in offseason or early next season."

Joerger had sought permission to talk to other teams about their open coaching positions, sources told Yahoo! Sports' The Vertical.

Sources told ESPN's Marc Stein that Wallace, before Saturday's developments, sought and received permission to interview for the Sacramento Kings' recent front-office vacancy.

The Kings ultimately hired Detroit's Ken Catanella over Wallace and David Morway then proceeded to a coaching search in which they have interviewed a number of candidates already and which features Joerger as a prime target now.

The Grizzlies stumbled into the playoffs after ending the regular season with a 3-14 stretch to finish 42-40 and as the No. 7 seed in the West. They were then swept in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs.

Memphis churned through players during an injury-riddled campaign. An NBA-record 28 players logged at least one minute for the Grizzlies this season. Center Marc Gasol's season ended in February with a broken right foot, and point guard Mike Conleywas done in early March with left Achilles tendinitis. Memphis signed eight players to 11 10-day contracts before its playoff ouster.

"This season has been hard. It's been really hard," Joerger said after the team's final loss to the Spurs. "They could've quit, could've not made the playoffs, and every day they came out and fought like crazy."

Conley is a free agent this summer, and five Grizzlies are not under contract for next season. The Grizzlies also must decide whether to exercise the option on Stephenson and whether they should keep Vince Carter, JaMychal Green and Xavier Munford.

Joerger was 147-99 in his first NBA head-coaching job. His .598 winning percentage was the best in Grizzlies history, and he trailed only Lionel Hollins in total wins with Memphis. He took the Grizzlies to the playoffs in each of his three seasons.

Joerger's name will almost certainly be added to the lists of coaching candidates forHouston and Sacramento, sources told Broussard. The Indiana Pacers may also have interest in Joerger.

Information from ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz and Chris Broussard,ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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