|Monday, December 16
How Hubie has turned around the Grizzlies
By Dr. Jack Ramsay
Special to ESPN.com
I had a call from Hubie Brown the other day. I hadn't talked with him since his hiring as the Memphis Grizzlies' head coach, and I was happy to have the chance to find out how he's doing. He sounds as upbeat as ever and has taken seriously the challenge of elevating the Grizzlies' game. No surprise there.
No surprise either that Brown has turned the team around. Memphis has won six of its last 12 games and has been in the game down the stretch of another half dozen. How has he done it?
To help him get his new team where he wanted it, Brown reorganized the coaching staff. He took Tony Barone away from scouting duties and brought him to the bench and did the same with his son, Brendan, a sharp basketball mind. He also hired Dr. Hal Wissell, an excellent shooting instructor, and retained ex-Trail Blazer Lionel Hollins.
"I needed top teachers to help me, and these guys are terrific," Brown said.
The next project was to get the players to believe they could win. The team was 0-8 when he took over.
"We (the coaches) stayed positive in everything we did," Brown said. "I wanted the players to understand why the team was losing, what changes we had to make and what we needed to do to win. I didn't want them to feel satisfied in coming close."
"I organized the schedule into six-game blocks. How many of these six games can we win?" he asked his players. "I felt if we could hang in the game until the last three minutes, we could steal some wins."
That's what has happened. The team defense tightened and the offense became more unified. The Grizzlies played tougher. The wins started coming. In Friday's overtime victory over Houston, the Grizzlies could have folded their tents and accepted defeat many times, but they hung tough and pulled out a great win.
Jason Williams, playing under more control than I've ever seen, made a couple of big hoops. Pau Gasol scored a left-handed runner over Yao Ming and later made clutch free throws. And Wesley Person, elevated to the starting lineup, made a huge 3-pointer to ice the overtime victory.
Brown's players have been outspoken in their praise of the new coach. They like his no-nonsense style, the accountability he demands and his organization of the game -- so that they know when and how much they'll play.
As for Brown, he's enjoying it thoroughly. He's even been exemplary in his bench behavior. "I haven't even had a warning (from officials)," he laughs. He's too busy coaching his team. This is in sharp contrast to the Hubie Brown that I coached against who accumulated a fair share of technicals while coaching the Hawks and Knicks.
I never had a doubt that Brown would have such a positive impact on the Grizzlies. He is one of the all-time great teachers of the game of basketball. These Grizzlies will never forget him. He has already influenced many of their careers in a positive direction.
I couldn't be happier for him.
Dr. Jack Ramsay, a Hall of Fame coach who won an NBA title with Portland in 1977, is an NBA analyst for ESPN.