Recently, the Grizzlies just signed J.B. Bickerstaff to a three year contract. He led the Grizzlies through one of their roughest seasons since the ’07-’08 season finishing at 22-60. This past season, the Grizzlies abruptly fired David Fizdale after a slow start to the season, mainly because of a poor relationship with Marc Gasol, but also due to a slow start to the season. After that, the rest of the season spelled disaster as the Grizzlies were decimated with injuries not only to Conley, but also Jamychal Green, Tyreke Evans, and nearly the whole team outside of Dillon Brooks.
The positive though is that young guys such as Deyonta Davis, Ivan Rabb, and Kobi Simmons got to show off their potential. Bickerstaff didn’t have much to work with this past season, but was able to get his team to compete on a nightly basis. Was Bickerstaff’s performance as interim head coach good enough to upgrade him to the head coach of the future? I believe this was a good decision by the front office. Here’s why:
Why not another coach?
Just a few weeks after the playoffs begin, the Hawks fired Mike Budenholzer and the Magic fired Frank Vogel. From what we know, the Grizzlies never considered anyone else other than Bickerstaff. It is foolish of the Grizzlies to not consider other coaching option and just assume Bickerstaff is the man for the head coach.
However, they saw enough positives in him to keep him around without a search. He did a good job developing the young guys. You could tell he was putting Ivan Rabb, Dillon Brooks, and Wayne Selden in positions where they could be successful. He was also able to command respect from the veterans of the squad. Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Chandler Parsons all approved of his performance during the season. Because of how he was developing our young talent and got the respect of our veterans, it makes sense that Bickerstaff was the right hire over any other coach.
The Team Played Hard For Him
Even though the Grizzlies were outmatched from a talent perspective against other teams, they never gave up. Well, except for that 65 point beat down in Charlotte, the effort was there. After our massive 19 game losing streak, the Grizzlies were able to beat Denver, Portland, and Minnesota who were all competing for playoff positioning. I do acknowledge that the Grizzlies lost about every other game, but they battled in those losses allowing Bickerstaff to stand out as a head coaching candidate. He had the team’s respect, which is important for a head coach.
On the other hand, Fizdale lost Marc Gasol’s respect mainly because he tried to run the faster paced offense that shoots many threes. He also sat Gasol during a fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets earlier in the season, which didn’t sit well with Gasol. Eventually, because of Gasol’s frustration with Fizdale, he got fired early into the season. Bickerstaff never had this problem earning the team’s respect.
Even though most fans have been frustrated with the Grizzlies lack of effort to explore other head coaching candidates, Bickerstaff is the best option for the Grizzlies. He has already started developing our Rabb, Davis, and Brooks. He deserves the opportunity to continue to coach these young players and a fully healthy squad. If he can get a young team to play hard and compete with playoff teams vying for positioning, then I would like to see what he can do with a healthy Conley, Gasol, and whoever the Grizzlies get in the draft. I could see the Grizzlies going back to their old ways of competing harder than other teams on a nightly basis similar to the grit and grind teams allowing them to compete for a playoff spot.