The fast resignation of Memphis Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien comes as a shock to many. However, the resentment between him and Robert Pera was evident beneath the surface.
The relationship between the team's CEO and owner has "tanked" for months, according to some who follow the team closely. Pera has reportedly become much more hands-on with the team this season, even holding his own exit interviews, according to USA Today's Sam Amick:
According to a second person with knowledge of the situation, Pera even conducted end-of-season player meetings at a hotel and independent of the front-office and coaching staff after the season. Typically, players meet with a team's general manager and head coach.
Pera even contemplated firing coach Dave Joerger after a slow start, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. This was despite the fact that Joerger was barely a third of the way into his first season as head coach.
The presence of lead attorney David Mincberg could also be a factor. He was angling to become more involved with the basketball operations, dating all the way back to December. Levien's abrupt resignation "relates" to Mincberg taking a larger role in the organization, according to Amick. It appears that Levien and Mincberg were at odds, though the specific nature of their relationship is unclear.
Joerger's future also remains unclear. He was hired by Levien, so one would think they would be on their way out as well. There are rumors swirling that Pera is angling to recruit a big name like Chicago's Tom Thibodeau or Kentucky coach John Calipari. However, acting general manager Chris Wallace told Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal that Joerger isn't going anywhere. Should Joerger too be fired, he could become Flip Saunders' man in Minnesota, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
It's worth noting that Levien's history also makes this departure less surprising. Levien was hired as the Kings' assistant general manager in 2008, but resigned 18 months later amid disputes with then-GM Geoff Petrie. He also was part of an ownership group that bought the 76ers in 2011, only to depart a year later to join Pera in Memphis.
Regardless, this is the last thing the Grizzlies needed as they prepare for a big summer. SB Nation's Grizzlies site Grizzly Bear Blues called the news a "disaster."