How Lionel Hollins Stood Up to Allen Iverson in Memphis

by October 27, 2010

The Commercial Appeal tells a fascinating story of how the Grizzlies’ head coach cemented his leadership of the team last season, by refusing to back down from the now Turkey-bound A.I.: “The Grizzlies were mired in losing and Allen Iverson — having missed a training camp during which Hollins preached a philosophy of one team, one goal — was upset about playing off the bench. Suddenly, the Griz had to deal with one big ego, one major problem. So on Nov. 5, 2009, Hollins asked everyone in a Los Angeles gym to leave practice. That included visitors such as former Griz president Jerry West. Hollins then got something off his chest. In front of the team, Hollins demanded that Iverson conform to the team’s philosophy, understand his role and respect his teammates. Several key players say it was an essential move by Hollins, for the sake of the team. ‘Last year, it was boiling under the surface. It was boiling over the pot in the locker room,’ said Hollins. ‘It wasn’t as noticeable as far as the media, and this was even before A.I. played. When it became necessary, I confronted the situation. And players recognize when something isn’t right and nothing is being done about it. The team was waiting on me to be the leader. So I spoke up. Things broke loose and the team galvanized behind the decision that I made to speak up at that point. They were like, ‘OK, this is how he is, and he did it with one of the greatest players ever. We can believe.’ It just worked out that way. It’s not something I tried to do.'”