When Lionel Hollins took the reins as the 11th head coach in Grizzlies history on Jan. 25, 2009 he immediately set out to establish a team identity founded on playing hard and competing as a team every night. By the end of the 2008-09 season, Hollins had made his mark, instilling his work ethic on a young and hungry roster. The Grizzlies posted their first winning month (5-4 record in April) in three years and several of the team’s younger players responded to Hollins’ tutelage. Most notably, point guard Mike Conley, the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, posted 14.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 39 games under Hollins’ direction after averaging 7.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists before the coaching change.
The Grizzlies finished the year 13-26 (.333) under Hollins after starting the season 11-32 (.256). For Hollins, It was a new experience with a familiar team. The 21-year NBA coaching veteran was an original member of The Vancouver franchise and was a staple on the coaching sidelines for the following 12 years (1995-07). Hollins, who conducted his first training camp as head coach in October, also served as the club’s interim head coach on two separate occasions. Hollins guided Vancouver to an 18-42 finish (.300) in 1999-00, replacing Brian Hill after the team started the season 4-18, and again took over for four games in 2004-05 following the resignation of Hall of Famer Hubie Brown.
Hollins owns an overall coaching record of 31-72 (.301), including two stints as Grizzlies Interim head coach. Prior to joining the Grizzlies, the Arizona State graduate spent seven years with the Phoenix Suns (1988-95) as an assistant coach under Cotton Fitzsimmons and later Paul Westphal. During that time, Phoenix complied an overall record of 394-180 (.686) and never won fewer than 53 games in a single season. The Suns won a franchise-record 62 games In the 1992-93 season and represented the Western Conference in the 1993 NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls. After sitting out the 2007-08 season, Hollins returned the sidelines in 2008 as an assistant under Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles.
The Arkansas City, Kan. native has honed his straightforward, no-nonsense approach by serving under three NBA Coaches of the Year, including Brown (1977, 2005), Fitzsimmons (1978, 1989) and Mike Fratello (1986) and was on the coaching staff when Brown and Fitzsimmons were honored with the award a second time. In addition, as a 10-year NBA veteran (1975-85), Hollins was led by several notable head coaches. including the NBA’s all-time coaching wins leader and Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens, Hall of Famers Jack Ramsay, Billy Cunningham, Chuck Daly, as well as Bill Fitch and Paul Silas.
Selected sixth overall in the first round of the 1975 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, Hollins earned a spot on the 1976 All-Rookie First Team and won an NBA Championship as a starter for the Trail Blazers in 1977, where he was a teammate of current Grizzlies Assistant Coach Johnny Davis. A year later, he was an NBA All-Star while also being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team. Hollins averaged 11.6 points, 4.5 assists and 1.56 steals over 673 career games with Portland, Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers, Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets. Hollins has been inducted into the Halls of Fame of the NCAA, Arizona State University, Nevada High School Basketball, Southern Nevada Sports and the Pac-10. In addition, he has been named one of the top 100 athletes of Nevada and one of the top 150 athletes of Arizona. His No. 14 Jersey was retired by the Trail Blazers on April 18. 2007. Hollins, who has maintained a residence in the Bluff City, has been extremely active in the Memphis community. He has been a regular participant in Community Investment and Grizzlies Foundation programs, and has established the Lionel Hollins Bowling for Backpacks event, which has raised thousands of dollars to purchase school supplies and uniforms for underprivileged youth since its inception in 2003.