VOL. 129 | NO. 105 | Friday, May 30, 2014
The Press Box
Lots of Questions Remain Unanswered in Grizz Nation
By Don Wade
We’re now going on two weeks since this whole WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE GRIZZLIES? saga started.
So, what do we actually know?
We know that Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera fired team CEO Jason Levien and player personnel director Stu Lash. We know that Pera allowed coach Dave Joerger to interview for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ head coaching job.
We know that Joerger said in multiple radio interviews he was offered the job and declined it and that three other teams wanted to talk him about their coaching vacancies, but were refused.
We know that Pera and Joerger are now presenting a so-happy-together unified front – PeraJoerger, if you will – and that Joerger received a contract extension (no, we don’t know the details).
We know, too, that Pera conducted a Q&A with GrizzNation on Twitter (@RobertPera) and that he and Joerger agree that the telephone conversation they had after Joerger’s interview in Minnesota was their first substantive one-on-one talk since, well, ever.
All of this at least qualifies as odd, not to mention counter-intuitive as to how to run any business. But Robert Pera is worth $2 billion and I’m worth about $19.95, plus shipping and handling, so I’ll give him that one.
Still, maybe we all should have seen this coming.
Go back to the home opener on Nov. 5, 2012. Pera had just purchased the team. That night, before tip-off, then-NBA Commissioner David Stern introduced Pera to the crowd at FedExForum. It was the young owner’s chance to make a good first impression.
“So, first off, thanks everyone for coming out tonight,” Pera said, sounding rather like a shy high school kid forced to speak at graduation. “We have some exciting ideas. I think it’s going to be a great season and Go Grizzlies.”
You could have knocked The Commish over with a Growl Towel.
“That’s it?” Stern said.
Yes. And we should have realized then that it was more than one awkward moment from a rich and successful young man that on the one hand is bold enough to believe his basketball skills were worthy of a charity one-on-one game with Tony Allen, but on the other wants no slice of the conventional media spotlight and can be downright reclusive.
Hence, the 36-year-old Pera’s choice of Twitter as his way to reach out to fans with, as he tweeted, #FactsOnly.
Of course, we’ll never know all the facts surrounding this basketball soap opera. That’s the lone certainty.
Pera, however, did go after a Sports Illustrated writer on Twitter, questioning his journalistic integrity for putting forth stories that came from unnamed sources. One of these was the tale that Pera at one point suggested Joerger wear a headset on the sideline so he could receive in-game instructions.
Could that bit of zaniness actually be true?
I guess I can imagine the headset idea being part of a wide-ranging conversation on a number of topics, but I’m less likely to believe it was ever something Pera tried to order. I mean, the guy is out of the country tending to his Ubiquiti Networks business more often than he is in Memphis to watch his basketball team play. To this point, he hasn’t even made it a priority to attend all playoff games.
So while we’ll never know all the facts, it is safe to say some fiction has been masquerading as fact over the last two weeks. Whether or not Pera was really close to firing Joerger six games into the season and Levien saved Joerger’s job is another unknown.
For the moment, general manager Chris Wallace, who literally went a year without stepping in the team’s offices during Levien’s reign, is running basketball operations and Pera said in his Twitter chat that Wallace will receive consideration for the permanent job. Pera also said he will be searching outside, too.
How will the search be conducted? How will it end?
I’ve got an answer for that one: #YourGuessIsAsGoodAsMine.
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.