Grizzlies GM admits tension between Gasol, Fizdale factored into firing decision

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Memphis Grizzlies introduced new interim head coach JB Bickerstaff to the public Tuesday.

The introduction comes one day after the Grizzlies fired head coach David Fizdale.

Fizdale was terminated the day after benching All-Star center Marc Gasol, who was vocal about his displeasure on being benched.

The first question Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace was asked referred to the relationship between Gasol and Fizdale.

Wallace admitted there was tension between Gasol and Fizdale and that it played a factor in the decision to fire Fizdale. Wallace, however, said it was not the overriding factor.

Wallace pointed to the Grizzlies poor performance as of late, including eight straight losses, and pointed out that the Grizzlies did not play well during the second half last year either.

When asked if his hiring of Fizdale last year was a mistake, Wallace replied no.

"Coach Fizdale made a positive impact during his time here," Wallace said.

Instead, Wallace said the team needs a reboot.

"We have an opportunity right now to make a positive change. Hopefully get a reboot, which I think we will," Wallace said. "We have a man right here to my left that's uniquely qualified for this job."

He also insisted that Fizdale did not lose the locker room.

Wallace said he and others remain optimistic about the Grizzlies' outlook for the remainder of the year, saying coaching changes are "a way of life," and that it did not represent instability within the franchise.

Bickerstaff joined Fizdale's staff when he was hired in Memphis. Bickerstaff said he and Fizdale have been friends since he was 17 and Fizdale was in his wedding, so the firing has been difficult for him to handle.

"The reason I came here was to be with [Fizdale] and help him succeed. So, yesterday was a very difficult day. There's a task to be done. The opportunity was given to me to lead that task, and now you've got to get it done," Bickerstaff said.

As for the team, Bickerstaff said he wants simple adjustments to improve the team as opposed to major changes. He said his job is to improve the team every day.

"We started out the year playing very good basketball. It's here; it's in this group. And what we're going to try to do is get back to doing more of those things we did when we were successful," Bickerstaff said.

Bickerstaff said the entire locker room (not just Gasol and Fizdale) was frustrated with the team losing.

"Marc is one of the leaders on this team," Bickerstaff said. "We need Marc to play his best basketball."

Bickerstaff has previous head coaching experience with the Houston Rockets, leading them to the playoffs in 2016.

Bickerstaff said his experience with the Rockets was a great learning experience and he thinks he will be in a better situation this time around.

Bickerstaff said grit and grind is not dead in Memphis, and that the players have the same mindset that made players like Zach Randolph and Tony Allen so successful in Memphis.

Wallace said Fizdale was appreciative and gracious of his opportunity in Memphis.

Fizdale released the following statement to ESPN, thanking Memphis for his time here.

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