View Full Version : Memphis Fratello's done?

11-14-2006, 12:29 PM
(since the Mavs play the Grizz twice in a row this week, Fri and Sat...here ya are)

May be time to go?

If Fratello's done, temporary help is within reach for Grizzlies
November 14, 2006
Tony Barone Sr., the Grizzlies director of player personnel, is the guy who runs the private workouts for players the team is thinking of taking in the NBA draft.

The workouts are tense, high-stakes affairs. Barone always ends them the same way. He gathers the three or four prospects together at center court then points to any random person -- a scout, a trainer, a sports columnist -- who might be watching.

You see him?" Barone says.

The players nod.

"That guy has hundreds of millions of dollars," Barone says. "And he's going to give a free Lexus to any of you that can hit a half-court shot."

Barone asks the players what color car they'd like. Then he tells them to fire away. And no matter how many times you've seen the routine -- and it is just a routine -- it's impossible to watch it without breaking out in a smile.

Which is one reason Barone should be named interim coach of the Grizzlies. Yesterday, if at all possible.

The team is 1-5. Nobody connected with the organization is having any fun. It may be too much to ask the Pau-less Grizzlies to win games, but if Barone were in charge, people might actually enjoy the team again. And Kyle Lowry might have gotten off the bench against the Houston Rockets. And Eddie Jones might not have played 35 minutes (and scored six points) against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.

Have you ever seen a coach as determined to be fired as Mike Fratello, by the way? OK, besides Larry Brown with the Knicks?

During the offseason, Grizzlies president Jerry West told Fratello he wanted him to do two things:

1. Play an up-tempo style, and

2. Go with the kids.

Fratello has responded with:

1. The usual keep-it-close style, and,

2. A rotation that favors Chucky Atkins and Jones over Lowry and Rudy Gay.

In six games, the newer, speedier Grizzlies have scored more than five fast-break points just twice.

They've already played seven full quarters in which they've scored 16 points or fewer.

Seven full quarters! Out of a possible 24!

Two of those quarters came during Sunday night's game against the Lakers. The Grizzlies scored 14 points in the first quarter and 16 in the second.

But there was Jones, 35 years old and in the last year of his contract, soaking up 35 minutes, or five minutes more than Lowry and Gay combined.

And Lowry is actually fun to watch! In the one truly thrilling game of the year -- the opener -- he came in toward the end of the third quarter and played 28 minutes, including the overtimes.

The kid hasn't been given more than 18 minutes since. Against Houston -- a game in which the Grizzlies had a whopping two fast-break points -- Lowry didn't get off the bench.

So it's not like West has a big decision to make about Fratello. The coach made that decision himself. And despite Michael Heisley's statement in today's paper that Fratello's future is up to West, there's not much doubt that West would already have replaced his head coach if he were in a position to go out and hire another guy.

He's not, though, because of the uncertain ownership situation. If Brian Davis and his group manage to strap together the money to buy the Grizzlies, they naturally will want to pick the coach themselves.

So West can't go out and hire a replacement for Fratello. In the meantime, Fratelloball -- like Billyball, with less scoring -- is chasing away the few fans who remain.

The temporary answer?


OK, assuming Hubie Brown can't be persuaded to come back and fill in for a few months. And assuming Barone would take it, which is no sure thing.

Barone has 13 years of head-coaching experience. He has a personality that's hard to resist. And -- as the guy who helped scout Lowry, Gay, Lawrence Roberts and Alexander Johnson -- he believes, really believes, in the talents of the young players on the team.

Even six games in, isn't it clear that's what this season has to be about? The Grizzlies are going to lose a lot of games. They can either lose with lame ducks like Jones and Atkins doing what they do, or lose with the kids running and hustling and maybe even winning over some fans.

At bottom, that's what at stake here. Not just the future of the rookies, but of the franchise, too.

The Grizzlies suffered a drop in season tickets after Fratello's first year on the job. They suffered another drop last year. Keep going the way things have been going this year, and there won't be much of a franchise left to sell.

And there is an alternative, right there on the payroll, who would be perfectly happy to go back to scouting when the sale of the team goes through.

So go ahead, Jerry. Give it a shot.

If it goes in, the Lexus is on me.

Contact Geoff Calkins at 529-2364; e-mail: calkins@commercialappeal.com

11-14-2006, 12:37 PM
Unless Barone can give them 20/10 from the PF spot, I'd say the criticims of Fratello are a little preliminary.

11-14-2006, 01:08 PM
Memphis would be doing a lot better if they had Gasol obviously, but I would have dumped Fratello after last years playoffs.

11-14-2006, 02:48 PM
IF Fratello is ignoring Jerry West's directive to play-young and uptempo he could be living
on borrowed time.

Isn't this the same Barone that was such a disaster for Texas A&M a few years ago?

11-14-2006, 03:44 PM
As long as they lose twice to the Mavs this week, who cares who coaches?
Sucks to be Memphis right now.

11-14-2006, 04:14 PM
Fratello looked completely lost last year. I thihink West will take Pau's absencse to dump him.