The Indianpost

BASKETBALL: Joerger enjoys ride

Dakota Wizards fans know Joerger’s track record – five minor league championships in seven seasons as a head coach, including four titles with the Wizards.

It’s a little harder to make an impact as an assistant coach, but Joerger has helped turn around the fortunes of the Memphis Grizzlies.

In his four seasons since joining the NBA, Joerger has helped the Grizzlies go from 22 wins to 46.

Even more impressive, the Grizzlies who had never won so much as a single playoff game in their 16-year history, shocked top-seeded San Antonio in the first round. They went on to take Oklahoma City to seven games before falling in the conference semifinals.

Joerger’s contributions to Memphis’ success hasn’t gone unnoticed. His name has started to be floated as a potential head coaching candidate. And the Houston Rockets have asked permission to talk to him for a position as the top assistant to new head coach Kevin McHale.

Joerger has been enjoying the ride.

“It’s been fun,” Joerger said. “People are jacked up about the team. They jumped on it. The two home games, Games 3 and 4 against Oklahoma City, sold out in like 15 minutes.

“To be considered in the top eight teams is good for the city, and it’s great to see the team get the recognition they deserve.”

Joerger joined the Grizzlies in 2007, after returning to the Wizards for a brief second stint and leading them to a championship in their first season in the D-League.

When the Grizzlies struggled and coach Marc Iavaroni was fired, new coach Lionel Hollins kept on Joerger, and his role has grown.

Earlier this season Joerger served as head coach for a game when Hollins attended the funeral of former teammate Maurice Lucas.

Joerger has worked primarily on the defensive end, where the Grizzlies have excelled. This season Memphis led the league in steals (9.4) and forced turnovers (16.7).

But without question the highlight of the Grizzlies’ season was the upset of the Spurs. Memphis became just the second eighth seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in a best-of-7 series. Beating a team with the likes of future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and head coach Gregg Popovich was no small feat.

“San Antonio is like God,” Joerger said. “Nobody can touch them. They’re such a great organization. … Getting the first one down there was big, but you know those guys just weren’t going to go away. We didn’t think it was over until it was over.”

Playing the Thunder with its young stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook presented a completely different set of challenges.

“They’re explosive, very difficult to guard,” Joerger said.

Joerger said that right now he’s just enjoying some downtime during the offseason but will soon be deciding his future.

His contract with the Grizzlies is up, and he said he’s not sure whether he will bend up back in Memphis, in Houston or somewhere else.


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