When David Fizdale was fired by the Memphis Grizzlies just 19 games into the season, it came as a shock to many.
Fizdale had a mostly successful debut season in 2016, leading Memphis to a 43-39 record and a competitive 6-game series loss to the Spurs in the opening round of the playoffs. At the time, rumors abounded that Fizdale and Grizzlies star Marc Gasol were not on good terms, and it was hard to disagree with that being the likeliest of concerns.
Now, in an interview with Rachel Nichols and Tracy McGrady on ESPN’s The Jump, Fizdale confirmed the problems with Gasol were real, although he certainly didn’t look to point any fingers.
From #TheJump: David Fizdale joins me and Tracy McGrady to discuss what went wrong in Memphis, those Marc Gasol reports, how the coach/athlete relationship works in the NBA, and what he’s looking for next. pic.twitter.com/kIFaqjpeVd
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) December 20, 2017
A relevant transcription, via Sporting News:
“That’s the league, I mean, the best player and the coach aren’t always gonna get along, and that’s just how it goes sometimes,” Fizdale told The Jump. “He (referring to Tracy McGrady) was the best player on teams and I’m sure he didn’t always love his coach, it was just unfortunate circumstances how it all played out on the stage, but that’s just normal stuff, and, you know, whether we like each other or not, that’s not what it’s about, it’s about winning games and it’s about us working hard together and getting W’s.”
It’s a dangerous precedent when a player gets control over coaching; Marc Gasol is obviously a very talented player, but there are coaches for a reason. Memphis elected to side with Gasol instead of working to help them get along, or backing the coach and calling the player’s bluff. Now, whoever comes in to the Memphis gig full-time (or if they elevate interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff), they’ll be wondering how quickly the ax might fall if they end up on Gasol’s bad side, which could be to the detriment of the team.
Having said all of that, the players are the most important parts of any organization, so that’s just how it goes in the pros. It’s a delicate balance. But the list of players who are good enough to demand this kind of change and get it should probably not extend all the way to Marc Gasol.
And it’s not like things have gotten better for Memphis; when Fizdale was fired, the Grizzlies were 7-12. Now they’re 9-21. This might end up being a good thing for Fizdale in the long run; he may get his choice of a few jobs this offseason, or even do some TV work down the stretch; he’s clearly comfortable there, and viewers would be better off for it.