Suns' Iavaroni hired as new Grizzlies head man
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- All Marc Iavaroni faces in his first job as a head coach is turning the NBA's worst team back into a winner.
The former Phoenix assistant took over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday following a 22-60 season that ended a run of three straight playoff appearances.
Iavaroni said he knows how to reverse that slide.
"I've always been noted for my enthusiasm, my passion for the game," he said. "We're going to instill in them a continuing passion for winning, a passion for preparation and a passion for honest competition."
Iavaroni has spent 17 years in the NBA as a player and assistant coach and is regarded as one of the league's top assistants. He spent the past five seasons with the Suns.
He vowed to return the sense of competition the Grizzlies seem to have misplaced.
"You compete in a drill. You compete in a scrimmage. You compete in a preseason game. You compete in one minute or you compete in 41 minutes. That's going to be a trademark of our team," Iavaroni told a news conference.
Tony Barone, the team's former director of player personnel, was appointed interim coach last season when Memphis fired Mike Fratello with the team at 6-24.
Iavaroni said he was impressed with owner Michael Heisley's pledge to run the Grizzlies as a partnership between the coaching and management staffs.
"They're obviously committed to winning," Iavaroni said.
"With his background, with his personality ... he'll be the right guy for a young upcoming Grizzlies team," Heisley said.
The franchise is also looking for a general manager to replace team president Jerry West, who is retiring after next month's draft when the Grizzlies will pick fourth.
West was in Florida for the league's pre-draft camp and did not attend Thursday's announcement.
Heisley acknowledged he has talked with David Griffin, the Suns' vice president of basketball operations, about the general manager job. But he said he has also talked with "some other people" and does not expect to make a decision until mid-June. Iavaroni said he will be consulted about that choice.
"It'll be important what I think," he said. "But at the same time, that's not going to be my decision."
Iavaroni said he will pick up the pace of the Grizzlies' play.
"We want to attack the opponent," he said. "We want to make sure we're attacking before the defense is set and at the same time we want to make sure we go a great job of setting our defense as quickly as possible."
With the Suns, Iavaroni was a lead assistant under coach Mike D'Antoni. He was an assistant under Pat Riley at Miami from 1999-02 and an assistant under Fratello at Cleveland from 1997-99. Iavaroni played in the NBA from 1982 to 1989 with Philadelphia, San Antonio and Utah.
The Grizzlies began last season with All-Star Pau Gasol missing the first 22 games recovering from a broken left foot. Lowry broke his left wrist and missed 71 games.
For several months during the season, talk about the pending sale of the franchise raised doubts about the team's future. The proposed sale to a group led by former Duke teammates Brian Davis and Christian Laettner ultimately fell through, and Heisley said he was taking the Grizzlies off the market.
Before moving to Memphis from Vancouver in 2001, the Grizzlies were regular dwellers near the bottom of the standings. But West, one of the league's top executives, joined the franchise in 2002 and by 2004 the Grizzlies were in the playoffs.
The Grizzlies were swept in all three playoff appearances, however, and have the league's longest postseason losing streak.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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