The Grizzlies have lost eight games in a row to fall to 7-12 on the season, most recently losing to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, as the wheels have come off after a hot early start in Memphis. In that loss to the Nets, Fizdale left star center Marc Gasol on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. Gasol was displeased with the decision, and voiced his frustrations after the game.
On Monday, Fizdale was fired, with assistant JB Bickerstaff taking over, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and USA Today’s Sam Amick.
The Grizzlies made it official shortly after, with both GM Chris Wallace and owner Robert Pera releasing vague statements on the firing.
“After a thorough evaluation, I decided a change in course was necessary to move forward and provide the team and organization its best chance at success this season and beyond,” Wallace said. “Coach Fizdale represented the Grizzlies and City of Memphis proudly, and we wish him well as he continues his career.”
“Coach Fizdale worked tirelessly to achieve on-court success, and for that, we are grateful. We wish him and his family all the best in the future,” Grizzlies Controlling Owner Robert J. Pera said. “We remain focused on achieving sustainable, long-term success.”
It could be a coincidence Fizdale was fired the day after benching Gasol, but it’s hard not to see the two things being related. Gasol has been the face of the franchise for some time (along with Mike Conley), and as Jonathan Givony explained, there were grumblings of tension between the two for some time.
In any case, it’s a fairly stunning move even with the Grizzlies’ recent slide, but it’s clear Memphis wasn’t pleased with the way Fizdale was handling things so far this season. If they really did feel like it came down to Gasol or Fizdale, it’s not that surprising, but considering how well the Grizzlies played to start the season prior to Conley’s injury and how Conley and others raved about the new, more open and modern offense Fizdale brought to Memphis, it must have been much worse behind the scenes than most realized.
Fizdale was a long-time assistant with the Miami Heat (and the Atlanta Hawks prior to that) and was widely viewed as one of the league’s top assistants when he got the head coaching job in Memphis in 2016. The Grizzlies went 43-39 in his first season as coach, earning the No. 7 seed in the West, and pushed the Spurs to a six-game series. Conley posted career-best numbers in Fizdale’s offense, but whatever worked between he and their star point guard, it was the opposite with Gasol.
For the second time in his career, JB Bickerstaff will serve as an interim head coach, as he did in Houston for 71 games after Kevin McHale was fired.