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Lionel Hollins downplays reported rifts with Grizzlies

Embattled Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins did a long radio interview in Memphis on Monday morning, and although he tried to downplay several reported rifts with members of the organization, he also made a critical remark about one of his top assistant coaches.

Kevin C. Cox

Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins has never been afraid to speak his mind, and that has not changed despite the fact that he's on the hot seat after contract negotiations stalled over the weekend. Hollins gave a candid interview to Peter Edmiston on AM 560 in Memphis Monday morning, downplaying reported rifts with several members of the organization but also making a controversial remark about assistant coach Dave Joerger in the process.

Joerger's name has been brought up as a possible candidate to replace Hollins, and the Grizzlies' head man questioned why a team would want to get rid of a proven coach such as himself just to hire an up-and-coming "superstar" coach. Hollins went on to say that he believes Joerger gets too much credit for Memphis' excellent defense.

"I love Dave Joerger. We have great rapport," Hollins said. "But the reality is, I'm the head coach, and whatever we do, it's not like Dave created our defensive system. He's a good defensive coach. He wasn't even the defensive coach until I named him the defensive coach. We implemented my philosophy and I gave him the authority to run it in practice."

While Hollins did have some nice things to say about Joerger, this type of comment surely won't go over well. It's understandable to be frustrated when members of the media are calling for your assistant to replace you as coach, but it's usually not a good idea to be that openly critical in public.

Hollins riffed on a variety of other topics during the near half-hour interview, including discussions on the stalled contract negotiations, supposed strained relationships with certain players and management and a specific incident with John Hollinger that was reported by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.

Wojnarowski reported Sunday that Hollins and Hollinger got into it at a recent practice during the Grizzlies' playoff run. The report stated that Hollins was upset at Hollinger for intruding on a practice, and that the coach wanted to show his players who was in charge on the floor.

Hollins disputed how the incident was painted, explaining that Hollinger jumped out at Austin Daye while he was shooting to provide a distraction, a tactic sometimes used by coaches on the Los Angeles Clippers. Hollins said his natural reaction was to get upset, but that the issue was overblown and that he and Hollinger laughed about it afterward.

Hollins also claimed that he does not have issues with management, and he expressed his desire to stay in Memphis. Grizzlies brass just gave Hollins permission to speak with other teams about jobs, although he would prefer to stick around. But despite how much success Memphis had this year, it's looking like Hollins will have to find work elsewhere next season.

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