What This Series Means For Dave Joerger’s Future
By Ian Smith
Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger’s status for next season may depend on how the Grizzlies perform in their first round series with the San Antonio Spurs.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN is reporting that Joerger is a major candidate for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ recently vacated head coaching job. Interim coach Sam Mitchell is being let go and Minnesota will begin searching for his replacement.
Other expected candidates include former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks. Joerger, who’s a Minnesota native, is under contract with the Grizzlies for one more season. Memphis also has a team option they can exercise on him for the 2017-2018 season.
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Joerger interviewed for the Timberwolves job two years ago that was eventually given to the late Flip Saunders.
The interest from the Timberwolves makes sense. Saunders was synonymous with Timberwolves basketball, and nobody besides Kevin Garnett is as important to the franchise’s history as Saunders. Joerger is from the area, a successful coach, and would provide stability as the Timberwolves look to start a new chapter for their team.
With a youthful core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, and Shabazz Muhammad, Joerger can be the young coach that helps them grow. The future looks bright for Minnesota, and any new coach would inherit an intriguing situation.
Would Joerger want to leave Memphis for Minnesota? One team appears on the upswing, while the other is full of aging veterans, many of which are coming off significant injuries. Marc Gasol is 31 years old and has only played in 70 or more games 4 times in 8 seasons. Zach Randolph is about to be 35. Mike Conley is coming off a foot injury, and is an impending free agent. Minnesota presents younger alternatives to the key pieces Joerger currently has to work with.
Minnesota could be two or three years away from being a dominant NBA team. Saunders is the only coach who has ever taken the franchise to the playoffs, and any coach who can even get them into the 7th or 8th seed a year or so from now would likely get the full faith of a front office that is starved for success. This has the makings of a career-defining job for whoever gets hired, provided that Towns and Wiggins continue their progression as players.
If Memphis wins a game or two in this Spurs series without the luxury of Gasol or Conley, Joerger may be content to stay put in Memphis. Conley’s odds of returning to the team are also critical, but even if he thinks Conley re-signing is doubtful, a presently-constructed Grizzlies roster holding their own against a historically dominant Spurs team would only serve as positive affirmation that the Grizzlies aren’t finished as Western Conference contenders for the near future.
It would appear that Joerger’s standing with the Grizzlies remains solid. Their dismal end to the regular season can’t be held against him, considering two of their most important players were injured. Assumably he’d remain the Grizzlies coach if he doesn’t end up being offered the Timberwolves’ gig. He’s in a win-win situation.
While the Grizzlies are the less alluring job, their roster has still proven to be good enough to be a middle-tier playoff team in an ultra-competitive Western Conference. Randolph is nearing the end of his career, but Gasol still has a few years left at or near his current production level. Conley leaving or returning is crucial, but if the Grizzlies can win a couple games this series without him, maybe it’d convince Joerger that even a team without Conley could continue being a Western Conference playoff team.
This is all dependent on Minnesota’s interest in Joerger, of course. If they do end up strongly pursuing him, the bitter aftertaste of a lopsided first round defeat could make Joerger eager to start fresh with a roster full of promising young talent.
Next: Roster Depth For San Antonio Spurs Key Reason For Success
This series could end up shaping the future of the Memphis Grizzlies in both player personnel as well as coaching. Joerger seems like a lock to be a head coach next year, but the location is yet to be determined.