VOL. 132 | NO. 241 | Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Grizz Break Streak; Norvell’s Status Uncertain
By Don Wade
How do you celebrate the end of an 11-game losing streak? If you’re Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, you speak from the heart. And the gut.
Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, left, drives against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson on Monday, Dec. 4, at FedExForum. Memphis finally broke its losing streak with a 95-92 win over the Wolves. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
After the Grizzlies beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 95-92 Monday night at FedExForum, Gasol did an interview with the team’s sideline TV reporter. Gasol dropped in the usual stuff about “guys need to get used to having a little more confidence with the ball in their hands and get used to playing together,” and then out of sheer joy and relief he added, “Overall, we won, so (screw) it.”
As Deadspin said: “Well, he’s not wrong.”
The 11-game losing streak was long. How long? The Grizzlies had not won since Nov. 7 at Portland.
Know how long ago that was? Tennessee had not yet fired Butch Jones. The college football coaching carousel was then just a twinkle in agent Jimmy Sexton’s eye.
The Grizzlies, of course, fired coach David Fizdale a day after the eighth straight loss, a Sunday home defeat to Brooklyn that included the benching of Gasol for the fourth quarter and Gasol sounding off postgame.
Big Spain might have said, “Overall, we lost, so (screw) it” then and maybe in a way he did. He let it be known he didn’t understand why he wasn’t playing and why no explanation was given. The next day Fizdale was out and associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff had been promoted to interim head coach for the rest of the season.
The Grizzlies showed real life last Saturday night in a 116-111 loss at Cleveland where LeBron James and his 34 points and 12 assists were simply too much. That was the start of the end of the streak.
“I kinda felt it coming after that Cleveland game. Our effort was great,” said guardTyreke Evans, who had 16 points with nine assists, five rebounds and three blocks against the Timberwolves. “Everybody was buying in, playing hard. We talked about it after that game. That team was in the Finals so if we can do that against them,” the wins will come.
Bickerstaff only owns three of the losses in the streak on his record, but he has been here all season. He was feeling the burden of losing, too.
“It’s been a while,” he said. “You almost forgot what it felt like to win because guys want it so bad and they’re so emotionally invested. Every loss that kept popping up became a heavier and heavier weight.”
But no more. So overall …
EITHER NORVELL STAYING OR LEAVING WILL HURT MORE
So, as college football coaches lose jobs, take other jobs, move around and require much larger safety deposit boxes, Mike Norvell remains at the University of Memphis.
While Norvell, 36, and SMU coach Chad Morris have been linked to the Arkansas opening once Gus Malzahn decided to slip into a pair of golden handcuffs at Auburn, the rumor mill has more recently tilted toward Morris as a candidate for that job and perhaps at Tennessee where Phil Fulmer is playing AD and now running the search.
If Willie Taggart were to leave Oregon for Florida State, Norvell’s name has been mentioned on the Ducks’ potential list, too.
When Norvell did not participate in last Sunday’s AutoZone Liberty Bowl press conference – not even calling in from the road and his recruiting trip – it raised suspicion. But Memphis has continued to include Norvell in ticket promotions of the game and he has tweeted as though he will be here on Dec. 30.
Both Norvell and Morris have Sexton as their agent. Could it be Sexton believes there is a better fit for Norvell later and they can afford to wait because Norvell is so young? Maybe.
Or maybe it’s just quiet until it isn’t.
Two separate media reports – one from a reporter covering Ole Miss and another from a reporter covering UT – suggested that the respective schools vetted Norvell and found something that made them wary.
Impossible, at this stage, to know if either report has any validity.
But it seems unlikely Fulmer would bring a Memphis coach to Rocky Top in any case. After all, the man once lost at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to Rip Scherer and a Tiger team that couldn’t even reach .500. Fulmer no doubt has forgiven himself for that loss, but he surely hasn’t forgotten.
Then again, if he had the guts to hire Norvell and it worked, Fulmer’s legacy would add another layer. Still seems like a real long shot.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL FBI PROBE HAS SOME COACHES WANTING CHANGE
Recently, cbssports.com spoke with some prominent college basketball coaches about the state of the sport in the wake of the FBI investigation into the ties between recruiting and shoe companies.
Gonzaga’s Mark Few, among other things, said the NCAA needs to levy harsher penalties on programs caught cheating. Few said too many coaches rationalize that if they don’t cheat, their competitors will beat them through cheating. And the threat of a show-cause penalty hasn’t been enough.
Head coaches often deny they were aware of any and all infractions committed by assistants. And often skate while assistants take the fall.
“Ban the whole staff for five years,” Few said. “Ban the school from going to the postseason. We can’t have this, `I didn’t know what was going on,’ or whatever.”