Dave Joerger still talks a bit funny. He doesn’t drag out nearly enough syllables to be considered a Southerner. Most Southern folk don’t know if it’s Minnesotan or South Dakotan, but it ain’t Memphian.
But Joerger is all Memphian and this week, his Southern hospitality has put whatever seemingly unknown rift there was between him and controlling owner Robert Pera behind him to remain the coach of the Memphis Grizzlies.
The good news capped eight days of weird news.
After a job offer in his native Minnesota — one he reportedly accepted — Joerger eventually turned down the opportunity to go home … because he is home. But the devil’s advocate will admit it looks like Pera had to convince Joerger to stay.
Something happened and we may never know what, but everything worked out — for now.
On Tuesday, the Grizzlies announced an extension, guaranteeing a fourth year and adding a fifth-year option, a good thing as Martha would say. Joerger won over Memphis in his first season by somehow winning 50 games, despite a long list of injuries.
In the playoffs, the Grizzlies pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games — capping a full month of virtual do-or-die performances to close out the regular season.
It has been a crazy eight days. Rumors and reports varied, some wild. For sure, Pera dismissed CEO Jason Levien and assistant general manager Stu Lash, prompting rumors Pera was about to send Joerger packing.
The owner gave Joerger permission to talk with the Timberwolves, knowing Joerger and Flip Saunders, Minnesota’s president of basketball operations, are friends.
Joerger said on Memphis radio Tuesday that Pera allowed him to speak with Minnesota, as a means of simply testing the proverbial waters. The two apparently had planned all along to talk when Joerger returned.
Also, Joerger said the front office shakeup wasn’t a factor in his Minnesota interview.
Why not interview? Maybe they were going to offer him a trillion dollars. Never know if you don’t go.
There was some conflict somewhere though, maybe a rift, maybe just a disagreement, but seemingly something that just needed to be hashed out in an honest conversation — and that had never been done.
After all, Pera did do his own exit interviews.
"I am excited to announce that we have reached an agreement to extend Dave Joerger as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies," Pera said in a statement. "Following an open and honest dialogue with Dave, it became clear that Dave was fully committed to Memphis, and we are committed to him. I look forward to seeing Dave build upon the foundation he helped establish over the last seven years, and we are both committed to bringing a championship to Memphis."
Levien showed Lionel Hollins, the franchise’s winningest coach, the door after a record 56-win season and the team’s first trip to the 2013 Western finals. Pera also showed Levien the door. We may never know when that drama started, but it doesn’t matter.
After watching from afar after purchasing the club, Pera has slowly taken an active hand with the franchise.
That hand decided Joerger was the guy; and Grizzlies guard Mike Conley always believed he would return to Memphis.
As the drama dust has settled, it looks like boss and coach get along just fine. They definitely have the same goals. And Pera doesn’t have to tell anyone he’s doing exit interviews. He’s the boss.
But Joerger’s quote in Tuesday’s release doesn’t scream all was good last week.
"I am absolutely thrilled to continue as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies for years to come," Joerger said. "I want to thank Robert Pera for believing in me … "
Tony Allen is the Grizzlies’s mouthpiece. He tweeted this Thursday: "#teamPera #GNG" and "#teampera #gng parade on beale coming soon" — the latter maybe a response to local Grizzlies ownership, who released a statement in support of Pera’s championship hopes.
Under Pera, the Grizzlies have shown fearlessness to make moves ownership deems necessary to get to that level.
Pera trusted Levien to make two of the most controversial calls:
Before letting Hollins walk, Levien sent Rudy Gay packing. The Grizzlies got better, though in fairness, every team Gay leaves gets better.
For whatever reason, that trust dissolved and Pera wants a heavier hand in the day-to-day activities.
Pera kept Joerger, because he wanted to and the two share a common goal. Joerger said Tuesday he trusts Pera and that Pera is doing everything he can to take care of the payers and win.
The front office is yet to settle, but Joerger said there is a direction.
Joerger is polite, often opening his postgame press conferences by giving thanks to media members for coverage of team charity events. He’ll take a fun-hearted jab at you. He tends to open any question-and-answer session with a joke, much like a preacher warming up a congregation.
If seven years won’t change that way Joerger talks, then one more season ain’t gonna do it, either. But he’s a local, saying Tuesday that he loves his church, loves his community and loves FedExForum.
The Grizzlies attract drama, and Joerger gave them plenty of that over the last week — all because he was wanted.
And for the Grizzlies to have a coach other teams want, that’s just another step in the right direction for an organization that has evolved from a former laughingstock.
Thanks, in part, to Joerger’s influence.
Pera saw something he didn’t like and made changes. The 16 people he follows on Twitter also no longer includes Levien.
Joerger, not on Twitter, now follows Pera and Pera follows Joerger.
One of the last rumors of the week involved Pera wanting Joerger to wear a headset on the bench. Hey, he’s the boss. And if one guy could wear the headset and laugh about it … it’s Joerger.