Hollins Ponders Whether to Accept Grizzlies' Contract Extension Offer
The Memphis coach said he has received an offer from Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley to return to the team next season. But he wouldn't reveal why he has yet to accept it.
"Well, I haven't signed it, so you just have to take that for what it is,'' Hollins said in an interview with FanHouse before Monday's game at Denver.
Hollins wouldn't say whether it is years, money or some other reason why the extension hasn't been signed. Heisley also wouldn't reveal specifics, but expressed his desire for a return by Hollins, who has steered the team to a surprising 40-40 mark in his first full season on the job.
"We've made an offer to Lionel, and he's got to respond to that,'' Heisley said by phone. "Negotiations go back and forth. This is a very difficult time to do a contract with a potential lockout looming (when the NBA's collective bargaining agreement expires June 30, 2011). ... We're anxious to get Lionel back. I think he wants to come back.''
Hollins said it's his hope to return, and, regarding negotiations, said, "I don't think it will drag on.'' But he said nothing is assured the deal will get done.
"There's nothing certain in this life,'' Hollins said. "I always say, 'Never say ever. Never say never.' So we'll see.''
Does this mean there's a chance Hollins, who has compiled a 53-66 mark in 1 ½ seasons with the Grizzlies, could look to take another job as a free agent when his contract expires after the season?
"I can't say one way or the other,'' Hollins said. "My heart is here in Memphis. I'm involved in the community in Memphis and I love these guys that I've been working with and the opportunity I've had. Once again, I can never say never.''
Heisley admits the Grizzlies are being "frugal'' during these tough economic times, so it appears Hollins didn't get a very lucrative offer. Heisley was asked how he would react if Hollins got a better contract from another team.
"If Lionel can get a tremendous deal, much better than what we're offering, I would be happy for him,'' Heisley said. "He's a friend of mine. ... If he were to get a better offer, I would give him my blessing.''
Hollins' players don't want to see him leave. Helped by the acquisition of Zach Randolph and the continued improvement of Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have improved significantly from last season's 24-58 mark.
"I want to get him signed back,'' Randolph said. "We definitely want the coach back.''
Mayo said Hollins, who should get some votes for NBA Coach of the Year, has played a huge role in the team's improvement.
"He's a big part of how the organization has turned around,'' Mayo said. "This was once the so-called worst organization in basketball, and he's turned it around and we've darn near had a winning season. (Grizzlies management needs to) make sure that he's taken care of.''
Hollins does have an offer ready to be signed. It's his choice whether to pick up a pen.
Chris Tomasson can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson