Lionel Hollins: After the grind - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Lionel Hollins: After the grind

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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The NBA  All-Star weekend has come and gone.

The best of the best players put on a high scoring game in New Orleans for fans around the world.

Missing from the roster this year, the Boys in Beale Street Blue. No Conley, no Z-Bo, and no Marc Gasol.

But Memphis is Grit Grind Nation. A little hard luck seems to drive us harder, and that attitude is shared by former head coach Lionel Hollins.

June of last year, new owners and management released the 56-game winningest coach in Grizz history after the Western Conference Finals.
Fans asked how? Why?

Management said it was philosophical differences, and poor development of the players. After almost a year, the coach talks. He says it was real simple. They just didn't want him.

The summer of 2013 was a proud period in Memphis professional sports history. It seemed the entire area dropped off their cares and worries and repeated all together a mantra of "Believe Memphis." The Grizzlies team was in the NBA Western conference Finals lead by Coach Hollins and self-proclaimed blue collar NBA stars.

They were winning even after losing a fan favorite earlier in the season, Rudy Gay. Memphis and the team were pulling together.

The disappointing sweep by the Spurs was the beginning of a summer of discontent for the fans. Nearly a month later, Hollins was gone.

"I achieved a considerable amount of success during the time I was here," Hollins said. "Taking a team that previously won 22 games a year, taking young players who hadn't done anything and developing them into a winner, here's finally an opportunity for me to reap the rewards financially, and it didn't happen."

The fans were hurt and angry. Hollins said he felt hurt, thought hurt, and felt he was wronged, but that life just isn't fair.

"No matter who you are there are going to be trials and tribulations in this life, and you have to trust God to get you through them and move forward," Hollins said.

Was there anything he could have done that would have kept him with the Grizzlies? Hollins said he's heard he was too stubborn and didn't work well with the organization, but denies that a member of management walked onto the court and instructed a player on how to play.
The real story: they were doing a drill, a kid in a corner shot a three-pointer and one of the management guys jumped out and challenged his shot from the sideline.

"The only thing that made it a big deal is that it was during practice and I reacted, I mean I went livid, just like if a player messed up in a certain setting I may go livid."

After practice was over, Hollins went up and said I'm sorry and the man apologized, too. They talked about it.

"Unfortunately it came out that I was trying to show management up but that's not what happened. There was no conversation between management, person, or the player."

It was John Hollinger.

"I have a right to react, I have a right to have an opinion but I still have an obligation to do my job. And I think I did my job after that situation happened."

The only regret Hollins has is that he was very honest in answering questions, and he said it was used against him in painting a case why they shouldn't keep him. He also would have liked to have had a better relationship with Jason Levien.

"If people want to get to know you, they'll get to know you. If they don't, they won't."

But what about the players, how did Hollins end his career with the Grizzlies players -- Zac Randolph, who was doubted at first by fans, Marc Gasol, and Tony Allen.

"I saw them as having their own vision, own plan," Hollins said. "I could take them not wanting me but I couldn't take them trying to destroy my reputation and credibility."

Hollins said they did that by planting things like he's too hard and he doesn't develop players. Not developing players was not a common criticism of Hollins by sports writers. They criticized Hollins for his distant demeanor toward the media before and after games, he was never accused of being friendly or jovial to reporters.

But developing players got praise, especially where point guard Mike Conley is concerned.

Hollins won't share what happened during closed door talks with management about the players. But sources that helped with this report say that under the Michael Heisley's ownership, Hollins asked for more time to develop Conley instead of trading him. Heisley's team trusted Hollins.

Fans saw the Hollins turn around.

Conley rose up in the hearts of Grizz Nation and in his NBA stats on the hardwood. During Hollins' last months, 6-foot-1 Conley was named to the 2013 All-Star ballot and made All Defense Second Team.

Developing a winning team was big, but for Hollins developing strong men who played like a team was more important.

"I was a part of their growth as young men. That can't be taken away and that was special."

The Grizzlies are in his rearview mirror. Hollins watches them, and loves seeing Conley and Zac do great things, and Marc make a comeback after his injury. He's run into them, and they text him from time to time.

When his contract was not renewed, Hollins interviewed in Denver, but he says it wasn't a serious opportunity. Then he was offered two other assistant coaching jobs, one in Detroit. He turned both down.

"I needed to take a step back, reevaluate me as a person, reconnect at home, reconnect with my family and reevaluate where I want to go, what I want to do, and how I want to do it."

Cut from the Grizzlies, Hollins never stopped his charity work giving back to the Memphis community through his foundation Lionel Hollins Charities.

As far as for the future, Hollins says he doesn't know if he would consider an assistant coaching job, but would consider being a head coach.

"I've decided this is where I'm supposed to be, I'm supposed to be coaching and helping young men."

During the production of our report, Coach Hollins' best friend and head coach of the Detroit Pistons, Maurice Cheeks, was released. Sports writers are generating speculation that Hollins will be asked to take the head coaching job.

I asked to be the first to know. In true Coach Hollins fashion, he said, "I don't think so."

But I'll be asking. And when I know, I'll let you know.

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