Grizzlies give Bickerstaff new deal, remove interim tag

MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 8: Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff of the Memphis Grizzlies looks on during the game against the Detroit Pistons on April 8, 2018 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies have decided to make J.B. Bickerstaff their next head coach, removing the interim tag from his title.

The Grizzlies did not disclose terms Tuesday of Bickerstaff’s new deal. He will be introduced at a news conference Wednesday.

Bickerstaff was the associate head coach when Memphis fired David Fizdale in late November of his second season. Guard Mike Conley had season-ending surgery to repair his left heel and Achilles tendon, and the Grizzlies finished the season at 22-60 for the second-worst record in the NBA behind only Phoenix.

They had to win their regular season home finale to avoid the worst record since relocating to Memphis for the 2001-02 season. But they should wind up with their highest draft pick since 2009.

”J.B. did an admirable job as interim head coach last season in what was a challenging set of circumstances,” general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement. ”J.B. has connected with our players and earned their respect throughout his time in Memphis, and we have been pleased with his role in developing our young players. We are excited to see him coach with a full offseason and a healthy roster next season.”

This will be the first time Bickerstaff has been hired as head coach without an interim tag. He finished the 2015-16 season as the interim coach in Houston after Kevin McHale was fired, and he went 37-34 with the Rockets. Bickerstaff said at the end of the season that he had been discussing his future with management and wanted to return.

”I feel like we have started something,” he said. ”We have started to build a culture. You want to be part of a group that you like. I think there’s going to be a tremendous bump next year, health permitting. I would love to be a part of it.”

Conley is expected back healthy, and the Grizzlies still have center Marc Gasol with a handful of young players like Dillon Brooks who got plenty of playing time under Bickerstaff.

Bickerstaff also was an assistant coach with Minnesota between 2007 and 2011 and worked for his father, Bernie, with the Charlotte Bobcats between 2004 and 2007. He was director of operations for the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team after playing two seasons. He started his college career at Oregon State.

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