Grizzlies fire Marc Iavaroni after 11-30 start - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Grizzlies fire Marc Iavaroni after 11-30 start

Mark Iavaroni Mark Iavaroni

NEW YORK (AP) - Rudy Gay has already played for three different coaches in three seasons with the Grizzlies, and it's about to become four - and maybe five - after Memphis fired Marc Iavaroni.

The Grizzlies prepared to face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Friday night with assistant Johnny Davis as interim coach, a day after Iavaroni was quietly dimissed.

Memphis has lost seven straight and 15 of 17 to fall to 11-30 after Iavaroni led the team to a 22-60 record last season, his first as an NBA head coach.

"I think it surprised all of us," Gay, a forward and the Grizzlies' second-leading scorer, said Friday after a team shootaround. "It's just tough."

The Commercial Appeal reported on its Web site that Davis will coach the Grizzlies for the next two games before Lionel Hollins rejoins the team for a third stint as head coach.

Hollins is an assistant with Milwaukee. The newspaper cited a source with knowledge of the organization's plans. 

Davis held a brief team meeting Friday morning.

"To just settle guys down," he said. "Anytime you have a change like this, there's a lot of talk and rumors and so forth. In order to put that to rest and get back on the task at hand, I had a meeting to explain what was happening, and obviously we all have to be professionals about the situation.

"No one likes it, but it's happened, so now we have to deal with it and move forward."

The Grizzlies went 49-33 and made the playoffs in 2005-06, but Mike Fratello was fired after the team got off to a 6-24 start the following season. Tony Barone Sr. took over on an interim basis and led Memphis to an NBA-worst 22-60 mark.

The franchise's fortunes didn't improve under Iavaroni.

"We have a situation where we weren't wining consistently enough," Davis said. "Our fans weren't coming enough and we weren't doing enough to make things happen. In the NBA, as with most professional sports, change is inevitable when you're not winning."

Davis is a longtime NBA assistant who has gone 73-144 in two brief head coaching stints. He led the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996-97 and the Orlando Magic for parts of the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.

"I'm surprised by very little in the NBA," he said. "It's just part of the business. It's unfortunate - Marc is a good man and a good coach."

The Grizzlies were in a prime spot to nab Greg Oden or Kevin Durant in the 2007 draft, but slipped to fourth in the lottery and ended up with guard Mike Conley - so far a disappointment.

Iavaroni became the ninth coach in franchise history in May 2007 after spending five seasons as an assistant with Phoenix. He also coached under Pat Riley in Miami from 1999-02 and Fratello with Cleveland from 1997-99. Iavaroni played in the NBA from 1982-89 with Philadelphia, San Antonio and Utah.

The Grizzlies are the seventh team to fire a coach this season, following Washington, Toronto, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Minnesota.

"We wish Marc all the best in his future endeavors," general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement. "He gave his all to the organization while serving as head coach and represented the Grizzlies with class and a high level of professionalism."

Wallace was scheduled to address the coaching change before the game Friday night.

O.J. Mayo, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, and Gay have been bright spots for Memphis, but the team was 29th in the league in scoring at 93 points a game.

The Grizzlies made the playoffs three straight seasons from 2003-06, but were swept in the first round each time.

Asked if the coaching change could energize the team to improved play, Gay said, "It could. It could go either way.

"Hopefully it sparks us and gives us some motivation going into the second half of the season.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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