Lionel Hollins is expected to be one of the hottest coaching free agents on the market this summer, when his contract with the Grizzlies is up. The Grizzlies’ overall impressive run to the Western Conference finals only gave him more leverage, and no other active coach with an expiring deal will be able to demand the salary and control Hollins will.
In case anybody wants to protest that last point, keep in mind that Celtics coach Doc Rivers still has three more years left on his contract, while Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan have been out of basketball.
In seven years as a head coach, all with the Grizzlies franchise, Hollins has developed a reputation for being willing to get in his players’ faces. As a result, his teams have consistently been among the most tenacious and hardest-working squads in the league. This year’s team was no different. Marc Gasol earned the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and point guard Mike Conley attracted wide respect after a playoff run that defied many observers’ expectations.
As the season was coming to an ignominious end Monday, however, emotions boiled over. Jerryd Bayless, who had an up-and-down series against the Spurs, failed to help on Tony Parker when Conley was caught on a screen in the fourth quarter. Hollins yanked Bayless from the game and the two exchanged words. While Quincy Pondexter was at the foul line, Hollins shoved Bayless into a seat. Bayless did not retaliate, and Hollins crouched down to give his player some quick advice. Nothing became of the incident after that.
These sort of confrontations are what make Hollins such an intriguing coach for teams desperate for tough love. Hollins is rumored to be at the top of the list for the open Clippers job, where that undisciplined group could use a shot in the arm. Then again, it’s to Bayless’ credit that he did not respond and make the situation worse. Matt Barnes or Caron Butler might not be so patient.
Check out Hollins’ shove in the video below.