Dave Joerger isn't a household name, but nobody around the Grizzlies coaching search is surprised the minor-league-coach-turned-NBA-assistant has earned the promotion to the team's vacant head coaching gig.
The man credited with building a Grizzlies defense that ranked second in the league this season has been considered a front-runner for the position since shortly after Lionel Hollins' contract was not renewed. In fact, talk of his promotion began even before Hollins and the Grizzlies parted ways, as the team confusingly allowed Hollins to interview with several other teams for vacancies.
According to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, Joerger's contract is for three years at less than $2 million per season. Although not all NBA coaching contracts are known, that would be towards the lower end of the scale. Hollins was believed to make $2 million a year.
Just 39 years old, Joerger has already had massive amounts of success in the minor leagues. He spent his playing days at D-II Moorhead State in Minnesota, but found an in with the Dakota Wizards, then in the now-defunct IBA. As the Wizards hopped leagues, he'd win one IBA title, two CBA titles, and in 2007, a D-League title, earning him a promotion to Marc Iavaroni's staff in Memphis. Joerger also won a CBA title with the Sioux Falls Skyforce and two CBA Coach of the Year honors while coaching 19 players that would make their way from basketball's backwaters to the NBA, a testament to his player development skills.
With Memphis, he quickly made his mark as well. Hollins promoted him to lead assistant in 2011, and the team rose from the mid-20's in defensive efficiency to a top-10 squad built around grit and grind the past three years. Joerger's defensive know-how, ability make him a perfect match for one of the more analytics-heavy front offices in the NBA.
The crew at Grizzly Bear Blues had profiled Joerger on June 14, with positive vibes about Joerger's coaching capabilities, essentially urging Memphis to be the team to take a shot on a young coaching prospect. 81 percent of voters on the site said they were "sold" on Joerger's coaching ability. From their post:
All in all, Joerger is one of the smartest coaches in the game, and he is still young which makes him all the more valuable. It's cliché, but if his previous success as a head coach is any indication, the sky would be the limit for him as the Grizzlies head coach. The Grizzlies better move quick, because Joerger is certainly not short on other job opportunities.
The GBB post cites a Kevin Arnovitz piece quoting a unnamed GM as equating Joerger to Tom Thibodeau but "likable," high praise for the first time head coach.