MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger returned home late Saturday night from Minneapolis, where he interviewed for another job, and the last thing he wanted to do was talk on the telephone.
But Griz controlling owner Robert Pera was on the line. The pair began conversations that spanned two days, talking more over the weekend than they had all season.
Now, the last thing Joerger wants to do is leave Memphis and his position guiding the city's NBA franchise. Pera reached out to and reassured his coach. Joerger ended up convinced that he is on solid footing with the Griz and spurned an offer to become head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Memphis would have asked for compensation -- cash and/or draft picks -- to allow Joerger out of the two years remaining on his contract. But the situation never advanced that far, which was one of many points Pera addressed Sunday evening in an hour-long Twitter chat with fans.
"I never really talked (one-on-one) with Joerger before this weekend. I think he's a great coach," Pera tweeted, adding that "We are so close (to a championship)...I can feel it. I think we just need to be tighter as a team between Dave, myself, FO (front office), players."
Pera unceremoniously fired CEO Jason Levien and director of player personnel Stu Lash early last week. There were three teams interested in Joerger, but Pera only granted permission for Joerger to talk to Minnesota because he's from the area.
"Personnel has to want to be in Memphis," Pera tweeted. "I know now Dave 100% wants to be here."
What made Joerger want to stay when it seemed as if he would bolt because of sudden upheaval in the organization?
"We understand each other a lot better and what we're trying to do here," Joerger said about his talks with Pera. "This shows his leadership. What's between Robert and I now is like wow. This is how it's supposed to be. There's interaction and you talk about anything. This feels good.
I'm excited. I'm really, really, excited. We're going to be fine. This is where I want to be. I have a lot invested here."
During Pera's attempt to be transparent with fans on social media, Joerger phoned every player on the roster. He apparently never lost their support.
"As far we were concerned he's our coach and was going to be," point guard Mike Conley said. "There were just a lot of rumors. But Joerger called me and told me he wants to be here. We didn't expect anything to happen. It wasn't in our minds that he was leaving. We were waiting for everything to just die down."
Joerger went 50-32 in his first season as an NBA head coach. Oklahoma City then eliminated Memphis in the first round of the playoffs. Joerger said reported rumors that Pera wanted fire him earlier this season never came up in their conversations.
"There was so much stuff being said and 99 percent of it wasn't true," Joerger said. "This is Robert putting his stamp on things. He's committed. I mean my talks in Minnesota were very positive. (Owner) Glen Taylor is a sweetheart of a man. He's a sharp guy. But at the end of the day I came home and had long conversations with Robert. This guy just beat out my home team. What more needs to be said?"
There is a matter of who will be in charge of personnel decisions going forward now that the coaching situation has been handled.
Asked in the Twitter Q-and-A about the "future of the GM situation," Pera said: "We are conducting a search now. Whether we decide on Chris (Wallace) or not for GM, I want him in the organization in some capacity."
Wallace, who was essentially sidelined from basketball operations during Levien's reign, is currently back in charge as interim general manager.
Pera, though, intends to make his presence known no matter who the Griz hire in management.
"He's going to be much more hands on and that's good for our organization," Joerger said. "The guy wants to win. You could feel it come through the phone."
(c)2014 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)
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