Like father, Austin Hollins trying to prove he belongs in NBA

Former Gophers guard Austin Hollins started all 38 games for Minnesota last season and averaged 12.4 points per contest.

Trevor Ruszkowski/Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Despite his pedigree, Austin Hollins doesn’t maintain a constant basketball dialogue with his father.

The recent Minnesota graduate and Lionel Hollins, a former NBA champion player and established head coach, don’t frequently discuss Austin’s professional future. The elder Hollins’ own trajectory comes up even less.

"I’ve thought about it," Austin Hollins said of his dad’s next potential coaching job, "but that wasn’t really my mindset right now.

"I’m just focused on me right now."

The communication may be sporadic. But the countenance is consistent.

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Both coach and player talk about their credentials with the same grit and defiance that’s defined each Hollins’ career. Lionel says he’s worthy of being an NBA head man again after the Grizzlies fired him, enough though he took a year sabbatical instead of latching on as an assistant somewhere.

"I believe I’ve established myself as a head coach," Lionel Hollins told in December, "and I’d like another opportunity to show that (my success) wasn’t a fluke."

His son doesn’t appear destined for the same kind of playing career as his father. But he’s trying to be just as persistent in pursuing it.

No major mock drafts predict a team will select Austin Hollins. His best chance at continuing his career likely means heading overseas.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard is fine with that. But that doesn’t mean he won’t shoot higher.

"You know what? What names show up on the draft board is out of my control," Hollins said after working out for the Timberwolves last week. "I’m gonna work my butt off at every workout I get."

That’s the same dogged determination that carried Lionel Hollins to a standout career that included a 1977 championship. The sixth overall pick in the 1975 NBA Draft spent 10 years in the NBA as a player, then went on to become the most successful coach in Grizzlies franchise history, leading Memphis to the Western Conference finals last season.

A few weeks later, he was fired.

But rather than settle for a lesser role, he’s spent the past year eyeing a return to the head coaching ranks. That’s brought interviews with the Lakers, Cavaliers and Timberwolves — though Hollins, at this point, looks like a long shot to land in Minneapolis.

He’s not the only Hollins on the job hunt this summer.

His 22-year-old son, on the heels of an impressive NIT run, has hired an agent and is currently weighing professional prospects. The Timberwolves workout was his only one to date, but he’s hoping to participate in more in the future.

Of course I want to play in the NBA. That’s the first goal, but I’m open for everything.

Austin Hollins

Short and not considered agile enough to match up with NBA athletes, the guard wouldn’t mind following in the footsteps of former teammates Rodney Williams or Trevor Mbakwe.

Williams spent this past season in the NBA Developmental League. Mbakwe plays in Italy.

But first, an attempt at something greater — convincing a team to hand him a summer league spot. If he were to perform well enough in Las Vegas or Orlando, he may even earn a training camp invite.

Or perhaps a team will take a flier on him in the always-unpredictable second round of the draft.

"Of course I want to play in the NBA," said Austin Hollins, who started all 38 games for Minnesota, averaged 12.4 points per game and earned NIT most outstanding player honors. "That’s the first goal, but I’m open for everything. If it doesn’t work out, I’m open to going overseas."

It’s a steep incline, but one his father — actively or not — has helped him prepare for.

"I won’t say (it gives them) an edge, but for a lot of coaches’ sons, they understand the nuances of the game," Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton said. "They understand making basketball plays, and obviously he’s no different. He really has a really good head for the game."

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