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Fizdale out as Grizzlies Head Coach

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Memphis Grizzlies have fired Head Coach David Fizdale Monday afternoon.

And the team confirms it with a late Monday afternoon press release. Excerpts:

Memphis, Tenn. – Memphis Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace today announced that the organization has relieved David Fizdale of his head coaching duties. Grizzlies associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been named interim head coach.

“After a thorough evaluation, I decided a change in course was necessary to move forward and provide the team and organization its best chance at success this season and beyond,” Wallace said. “Coach Fizdale represented the Grizzlies and City of Memphis proudly, and we wish him well as he continues his career.”

“Coach Fizdale worked tirelessly to achieve on-court success, and for that, we are grateful. We wish him and his family all the best in the future,” Grizzlies Controlling Owner Robert J. Pera said. “We remain focused on achieving sustainable, long-term success.”

Quick Reax: OUCH.

Honestly, I thought the rift between Fizdale and Grizzlies Center Marc Gasol had been overblown, even in the aftermath of the team’s 98-88 loss to the Brooklyn Nets — a loss in which Marc Gasol sat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. I knew that both of these men are competitors who want to win, and those types of people butt heads some times. Nothing too serious.

But in truth, there have been rumblings that Gasol and Fizdale had been butting heads since Fizdale’s arrival in 2016. And the late game benching in an eventual loss clearly was the straw that broke the bear’s back. If you buy into the idea that your coach and star player simply MUST be on the same page for team success, then it becomes clear that either Gasol or Fizdale had to go. And this team is NOT trading Marc Gasol without a gun aimed at someone’s head, so . . .

Makes me sad, actually. Fizdale was genuinely likable and certainly vocal about social issues. And some of me wonders if this was a bit too quick to pull the trigger on firing him — yes the team is losing, but he had lost Conley for who knows how long, opened the season with key players injured, and was trying to integrate a whole slew of new players. Not sure if even Spurs legend Gregg Popovich could manufacture wins under those circumstances.

But again, if Fizdale had already lost Gasol, then losing the entire locker room was inevitable. Sword, meet David Fizdale. Fizdale, meet sword.

Now attention turns to J.B. Bickerstaff, who, just a couple of seasons ago, found himself in the same interim role when the Houston Rockets parted ways with then-coach Kevin McHale. I expect the team to play better this week, if for no other reason than players tend to elevate their game after a coach gets fired — kind of to prove, “Hey, it was him, not me.”

But Bickerstaff inherits the same young, flawed, injured and disjointed roster that GM Chris Wallace gave Fizdale. It’s unreasonable to expect drastically different results — especially when the next four games are against San Antonio (twice), Cleveland and Minnesota. Anything can happen, but this losing streak could swell to 12 by this time next week — regardless of who’s coaching.

More on this breaking story as news comes in . . .  and look for more in this week’s print edition of The New Tri-State Defender.

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