Grizzlies hire Iavaroni as new coach
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Marc Iavaroni was hired as coach of the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday after a season that left the team with the worst record in the NBA.
Iavaroni, a 17-year NBA veteran as player or assistant coach, is regarded as one of the league’s top assistants. He spent the past five seasons with the Phoenix Suns.
Tony Barone, the Grizzlies’ former director of player personnel, was appointed interim coach last season when Memphis fired Mike Fratello with the team at 6-24. The Grizzlies finished at 22-60 following three straight trips to the NCAA playoffs.
“Mark is going to make an immediate impact on this organization, team and city, and we are honored that he will be making his NBA head coaching debut with Memphis,” Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley said in a statement released before a news conference to introduce Iavaroni.
The franchise is also looking for a general manager to replace team president Jerry West, who is leaving after next month’s draft when the Grizzlies will pick fourth.
The Grizzlies have refused to comment on reports that David Griffin, the Suns’ vice president of basketball operations, is a potential candidate for that job.
With the Suns, Iavaroni was a lead assistant under coach Mike D’Antoni. He was an assistant under Pat Riley at Miami from 1999-02 and an assistant under Fratello at Cleveland from 1997-99. Iavaroni played in the NBA from 1982 to 1989 with Philadelphia, San Antonio and Utah.
The season began with All-Star Pau Gasol on the sidelines for the first 22 games because of a broken left foot. Rookie Kyle Lowry, one of the team’s most promising young players, broke his left wrist and missed 71 games.
For several months during the season, talk about the pending sale of the franchise raised doubts about the team’s future. The proposed sale to a group led by former Duke teammates Brian Davis and Christian Laettner ultimately fell through, and majority owner Michael Heisley said he was taking the Grizzlies off the market.
Before moving to Memphis from Vancouver in 2001, the Grizzlies were regular dwellers near the bottom of the standings. But West, one of the league’s top executives, joined the franchise in 2002 and by 2004 the Grizzlies were in the playoffs.
The Grizzlies were swept in all three playoff appearances, however, and have the league’s longest postseason losing streak.