Before Marc Gasol was a utility big man on championship contenders like the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, he was an All-Star center for the Memphis Grizzlies, and while his most statistically successful years came under Dave Joerger, his first few years with the team were under the guidance Lionel Hollins, who now serves as an assistant coach on Frank Vogel’s staff.
Hollins took over as head coach of the Grizzlies 43 games into the 2008-09 season, which was also Gasol’s first season in Memphis. In the five years that they worked together, Gasol and Hollins formed a close relationship, and Gasol told Kyle Goon of the OC Register that relationship played a pivotal role in Gasol signing with the Lakers in free agency:
“Being reunited with him is special, a big reason I’m here,” he said. “He’s someone I know will be truly honest with me when it comes to it.”
The Lakers don’t play the same “grit-and-grind” style of basketball that Hollins is credited with having brought to Memphis, but Gasol shared some of the the other qualities that made him such a good coach — qualities that he’s likely brought to the Lakers’ locker room:
One thing with Hollins was for sure: You weren’t going to be making excuses. After taking over, superior conditioning became Memphis’ foundation, won by hard practices. Practices got a lot more challenging, and Hollins didn’t mince words, either.
“Back then as a coach, you were allowed to be honest from the get-go,” Gasol said. “He pretty much coached us however he wanted to coach us. He was very tough. He was brutally honest with us and what was expected of ourselves as players. He held us accountable.”
Hollins and Gasol weren’t able to bring a championship to Memphis during their time together, although they got pretty close in 2013, when the Grizzlies made the Western Conference Finals. Prior to Hollins’ arrival, they hadn’t won a playoff series. Hopefully they’ll be able to get over the hump together in Los Angeles.