Before Lionel Hollins arrived in Memphis, the Grizzlies had never won a playoff game, let alone a series. His last month on the job, his team lost in the Western Conference Finals. When he started his last stint there, the Grizzlies had just dumped an underachieving Gasol brother, Pau. When he departed, he left behind an overachieving Gasol brother, Marc.
He was named coach of the month four times in Memphis, in December 2009, April 2012, November 2012 and February 2013. He took his team from 40 wins to 56 wins in four years. Yet, at the end of his contract, the Grizzlies dumped him in favor of his assistant, their coach of the future. Arguing that he never got that much credit because he coached in the smallest market is not much a stretch.
But now, he's on the big stage at age 61 in a job he has called his "miracle job." He's popular with his players, the front office, ownership, the fans and even the beat writers ... at least so far. He takes no prisoners, minces no words and as Stefan Bondy writes, has a chance to make a lasting impression his three predecessors in Brooklyn didn't, maybe even couldn't.
"I'm the same guy but probably more comfortable in who I am and what I believe in," Hollins tells Bondy about his history. "I think any time you have success in doing what you believe in, the more comfort you have in doing that. It's just confidence in what I do and believing it can work in the NBA."
And just below the surface, you can sense that Hollins would like to get back at the ownership in Memphis, who before dumping him refused to let teams talk to him. (The Nets play the Grizzlies January 14 in Brooklyn and February 10 in Memphis.)
"I never thought that the situation in Memphis was fair but it's their money, it's their team. They make whatever decisions they want," he told Bondy, noting at another point in their interview, "What are you going to do? You just have to go find another job. You're going to be pissed. You might think it's not fair. You may think you did a great job. People may love you. But they don't even know you and it has nothing to do with you. So that's the way I look at it. I mean, it hurts. And it can put doubt in you if you let it."
And judging by his demeanor so far, losing his job in Memphis hasn't done that.
"That would be good thing," he responded. "My thing is, everything about growing up was tough. Everything about having success was tough. Overcoming adversity, obstacles … but, I’m a better person, and I know who I am, because of those experiences."
- Lionel Hollins has chance to make lasting impression with Nets that previous coaches couldn't - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News