MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Memphis Grizzlies Coach Dave Joerger is doing his best to send the message that everyone in the franchise is on board with owner Robert Pera.
Joerger met with reporters Thursday in his first news conference since signing his new contract extension. He decided to stay in Memphis after interviewing twice with the Minnesota Timberwolves for their head coaching job.
The coach said he was surprised at the departure of chief executive officer Jason Levien and player personnel director Stu Lash after an apparent fallout with Pera. But Joerger added that there is more harmony now, and he feels more of a commitment from the owner.
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”There’s a relief for me,” Joerger said. ”It’s like `Whew,’ the owner and I are married now.’ This feels really good and really positive.”
It’s been a busy 14 months where Joerger went from assistant coach to head coach, hiring a staff, dealing with injuries to key players and winning 50 games to clinch the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference where the Grizzlies lost in the first round in seven games.
Then came the unexpected upheaval in the front office May 19. The franchise appeared to be in disarray with Levien and Lash out along with uncertainty over who would remain with the Grizzlies’ leadership. General manager Chris Wallace is in charge temporarily after having been pushed aside with Levien in charge.
Joerger said Pera is expected to take a more active role in decisions. Wallace also is expected to remain a part of the organization as the Grizzlies look for someone for the general manager’s role.
”When you look at the general manager’s situation, we want Chris (Wallace) to be involved in the organization,” Joerger said. ”Right now, he’s helping get ready for the draft and stuff like that. I’m going to be involved in the candidates we bring in, no matter what the front office situation is going forward.”
The Grizzlies also start their pre-draft workouts Friday. Joerger said he is comfortable with the situation as the Grizzlies prepare for a draft where they have one pick – the 22nd overall.
The Minnesota native also said his interviews for the Timberwolves’ vacancy was simply the chance to move home. In the end, he decided to remain with the Grizzlies after a discussion with Pera and a contract extension announced Tuesday.
Joerger said he appreciated Pera providing him the opportunity to return home, permission other owners might not have granted. The coach said Pera told him the owner didn’t want Joerger taking the Minnesota job. When Joerger returned, the men talked about the future.
”We had a good really good heart-to-heart, one-on-one conversation and we have a very shared vision of what we can do here,” Joerger said.