(Reuters) – The Memphis Grizzlies named longtime assistant David Joerger as their head coach yesterday, hoping the defensive specialist can help the team build on their breakout season. Joerger replaces his former boss Lionel Hollins, who was not offered a new contract despite leading Memphis to a surprise appearance in the Western Conference Finals last season.
“Not only do we think Dave will continue to grow the team’s league-best defensive identity, but we believe we have one of the league’s budding coaching talents to lead our team,” Jason Levien, chief executive of the Grizzlies, said in a statement.
Prior to joining the Grizzlies, Joerger had made a name for himself in the International Basketball Association, Continental Basketball Association and NBA D-League, winning a combined five championships.
Joerger spent the last two National Basketball Association (NBA) seasons as lead assistant for a Memphis team that has improved its defensive rating each season with him on the bench. Memphis had 2,105 steals over the past three campaigns, 180 more than any other NBA team in that time span, and paced the league in both steals per game and forced turnovers during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. Joerger takes over a Grizzlies team that is coming off its best season.
Memphis finished fifth overall in the 15-team Western Conference and advanced to the penultimate round of the playoffs before being eliminated by the second seed San Antonio Spurs 4-0 in the best-of-seven series.