David Fizdale just became the NBA’s second coaching casualty 19 games into the season.
The Memphis Grizzlies fired Fizdale following the team’s 7-12 start, according to ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff will reportedly assume interim head coaching duties.
The Grizzlies are riding an eight-game losing streak that saw max-salaried point guard Mike Conley sidelined with a left foot injury and culminated with All-Star center Marc Gasol publicly griping about his fourth-quarter benching in a 98-88 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night.
It’s unclear whether the Grizzlies felt compelled to decide between their second-year coach and the impending free agent, but if the choice ever came to Fizdale or Gasol, the Memphis brass made it clear whose side it was on, and that should quell any trade rumors involving the Spanish center.
But it only feeds questions about the team’s direction. Fizdale exceeded expectations in his first year on the bench, leading the Grizzlies to a 43-39 record and a spot in the Western Conference playoffs despite a slew of injuries. Memphis even gave the 61-win San Antonio Spurs a run in the first round.
Everyone was so satisfied with Fizdale’s performance that the players offered to pay his $30,000 fine following his infamous “take that for data” rant, and the team built a marketing campaign around it.
So, what changed six weeks into his second season? The Memphis front office couldn’t have had too high of expectations this season, considering the team lost Grit ‘n’ Grind founders Zach Randolph and Tony Allen over the summer. And Conley’s injury only compounded the difficult road that the Grizzlies faced in a Western Conference that saw a handful of potential playoff teams add reinforcements.
Gasol may not be available, but there’s an awfully good coach on the open market. And while it may seem strange for a team to give up on its coach so early into a new NBA campaign, Fizdale follows fired Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson, who was let go three games into this season. Still, Fizdale’s departure is no less surprising, because there were no indications of any turmoil until Gasol’s rant.
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