It looks like J.B. Bickerstaff will become the next head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies.
A report by Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania said Thursday that Memphis and the interim head coach, who led the team to a 15-48 record after taking over for the deposed David Fizdale, were close on a deal. This follows rumors throughout the offseason by the New York Times’ Marc Stein and others that Bickerstaff was in the driver’s seat for the Grizzlies’ job.
After 12 seasons as an assistant in Charlotte, Minnesota and Houston, Bickerstaff had an opportunity in 2016 to take over for Kevin McHale as the Rockets’ interim coach during the last season of Dwight Howard’s tenure in Houston. He led that team to a 37-34 record and a playoff berth, but it did not lead to a head coaching job the following season. It’s worth noting that he did an admirable job in an incredibly difficult situation there.
The Grizzlies were disappointing for most of this past season, but a late season surge may have locked Bickerstaff into the job. Memphis won three of its last nine games, led by a reinvigorated Marc Gasol and late-season pickup MarShon Brooks.
Memphis will have the second-best odds for the top overall pick in next month’s NBA Draft Lottery. A perennial playoff team for most of the last decade, the team is now facing a rebuild, one reason a younger candidate like Bickerstaff may have appealed to the team. However, a top pick is who ready to contribute right away may also be enough to catapult the Grizzlies right back towards the top of the Western Conference.
More news will likely come soon as the Grizzlies finalize their deal with Bickerstaff. The Memphis job would be the first filled of the offseason, barring a setback or another team striking unexpectedly.