Wednesday , Feb , 02 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Fratello is the right coach for Memphis

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

(Sports Network) – The Memphis Grizzlies made the right decision when they
hired Mike Fratello to be the new head coach on December 2, 2004.

After the sudden retirement of former head coach Hubie Brown, who cited he
no longer had the desire or energy to keep coaching. The Grizzlies were lucky
to get Fratello, who is the seventh head coach in team history. Fratello, who
had been the general for the Atlanta Hawks for seven seasons and the
Cleveland Cavaliers for six, had a successful resume that included plenty of
postseason experience.

The Grizzlies, who won a franchise record 50 games in the 2003-04 regular
season and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the San
Antonio Spurs, started the season with four straight losses and were a
disappointing 5-11 prior to Fratello’s first game as head coach. The team
looked lost, as they were out of sync offensively and the defense was very
weak.

Under Fratello, the Grizzlies are 22-9 and look a lot like the team that
surprised the league with their 50-win season a year ago. In its first 16
games of the 2004-05 campaign, Memphis had allowed its opponents to score over
100 points five times. With Fratello leading the club, the Grizzlies have
allowed the opposition to score more than 100 points just four times in 31
games.

Fratello, who stresses tough defense, also has the Memphis offense flowing.
The Grizzlies had more than 100 points four times prior to Fratello’s hiring.
Under their new head coaches leadership, the Grizzlies have passed the 100-
point mark nine times.

The Grizzlies picked up a big win against the Phoenix Suns, who have the
second best record in the NBA, on Tuesday. Point guard Jason Williams
finished with 19 points and eight assists to lead Memphis to the 108-97
victory at FedExForum.

Without their best player Pau Gasol, who is on the injured list with left foot
plantar fasciitis, the Grizzlies need the rest of the team to step up. Against
the Suns, seven Grizzlies scored in double figures. Shane Battier and Antonio
Burks finished with 10 points apiece, Stromile Swift netted 16, Lorenzen
Wright had 12, Dahntay Jones chipped in 17 and Mike Miller contributed 11.

The Grizzlies were slightly outrebounded by a margin of 46-45, but their bench
outscored Phoenix’ reserves, 34-9.

“I am happy for the group of guys tonight, they hung in there and found
contributions from everyone tonight,” said Fratello after the win over
Phoenix. “We had seven guys score in double figures, we were really sharing
the ball. We were even with them on the glass.

“They (Phoenix) play a difficult style to defend because they take so many
perimeter shots. In the second quarter we turned the ball over too much and
took bad shots. This group perseveres, they are a terrific group to coach.”

The Grizzlies have won three straight and 15 of their last 18 games. Memphis
is scheduled to play six of its next 10 contests on the road.

Memphis has had to deal with a lot of injuries so far this season. Gasol, who
leads the Grizzlies in scoring and rebounding, has already missed eight games.
Miller, who is second on the team in scoring, has been out six contests, while
Williams, who leads Memphis in assists, has missed seven games. Bonzi Wells
sat out his fifth game of the season, as he did not play against the Suns
because of a leg injury.

With so many injuries, the Grizzlies have been fortunate that their players
have been able to fill the voids. Memphis currently has Gasol, James Posey and
Andre Emmett on the IL.

“The 12 guys we keep on the roster at the beginning of the year we believe can
play and help us win games,” said Fratello. “There’s nobody in the league that
feels sorry for us. When guys go down it’s someone’s turn to step up and do
their job. We are blessed that our front office got these good players 1-15.”

Fratello has done an unbelievable job with the Grizzlies. He has been able to
get the entire team to buy into his philosophy of team basketball and the
results are showing in the win column of the standings. Fratello’s experience
has been a big plus, as he has been able to adjust his rotation and lineup
around the injuries that have plagued Memphis.

Memphis has been able to recover from its disappointing start and jump right
back into the playoff race under the guidance of its new leader. President of
Basketball Operations Jerry West made a great choice when he hired Fratello to
coach the Grizzlies.