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The evolution of Lionel Hollins, the coach


To the basketball world who doesn't know Lionel Hollins all that well, he is thought of as an "old school" coach. One who pushes his players hard, doesn't take any antics from his players, and stresses defense. However, Hollins doesn't see himself as that type of coach.

Mike Mazzeo of writes on Tuesday morning that Hollins has the reputation of being a tough coach to many, Nets GM Billy King included, but the former Grizzlies coach doesn't believe in it.

"I don’t know what ‘old-school’ is," Hollins responded when asked how he developed his coaching style. "When it comes to playing, it’s about a philosophy of trying to go out there and get our team to play as hard as they can and as well as they can and together as often as they can."

Hollins was told by several of his coaches that he should take up coaching. As Mazzeo notes, former Sixers coach Billy Cunningham and late Pistons coach Chuck Daly suggested that he should take up coaching. After leaving Cunningham and the Sixers to play with the Pistons in the 1983-1984 season, Hollins recalls a conversation with Daly on the topic of coaching.

"Then I played for [Detroit Pistons coach] Chuck Daily (in 1983-84) toward the end of my career, and Chuck told me that he didn’t think he could bring me back as a player, but he’d have an opportunity for me as a coach," Hollins continued. "I actually turned him down at the time and played one more year [with the Houston Rockets], and then I wound up at Arizona State [my alma mater] and ended up coaching in college for a couple years before getting back into the pros."

Hollins has a lot of experience as a coach now, with stints in Phoenix with the Suns, Vancouver with the Grizzlies, the International Basketball League, United States Basketball League, and Memphis with the Grizzlies once again. While he has taken bits and pieces from former coaches and colleagues along the way, he still believe he doesn't mimic any one coaching style, rather he is still his own coach.

"I don’t emulate [anyone]," Hollins said. "I’ve taken a lot of stuff from a lot of coaches that I’ve worked for just as part of the process, but I think all along I always had a vision of how I thought the game should be played, and I just like for people to go out and do their jobs to the best of their ability every time they’re on the court. You can’t always win, but you can always go out there and compete. And after you do that, the winning and losing takes care of itself: whether it’s talent or somebody throwing up a lucky 75-foot shot that wins the game at the end. There’s nothing you can do about it, but you went out there you competed and gave what you had on that particular night."

Now, in Brooklyn, Hollins has some challenges ahead of him. As Mazzeo points out, Hollins needs to help Deron Williams regain his confidence, find a way for Brook Lopez become a force on the defensive end, develop young players, create a system that allows the Nets to return to the playoffs, and figuring out who works best with who on the floor.

On the topic of the ever-changing basketball work, Hollins isn't worried about the question marks surrounding the team. "It’s always an evolving situation," Hollins said. "[A system’s] not something that you put in one day and then that’s it. It’s something that’s constantly evolving and growing. Defense grows and offense grows. You put in some plays, then you put in more plays. It’s on-going, and you just try to keep it growing and evolving."

One month from now, training camp will have already started, and we will begin to see Coach Hollins' plan in motion.

Hollins also said he's looking forward to return to Memphis on February 10.

"Like I told [Marc] Gasol and like he told me, he said, ‘It’s gonna be weird beating you. And I replied, ‘It’s gonna be weird beating you, too,’" Hollins said Friday.