Barry Hecker Rumors
Former Grizzlies assistant coach Barry Hecker has finally had his say. Hecker recently used The Sporting News to slam Griz coach Dave Joerger and explain his abrupt dismissal from the Grizzlies last season during their Western Conference semifinals series against the Oklahoma series. You can read thearticle here, but many people involved in the situation will take issue with his accounts although none of them find it worthwhile to publicly respond.
Hollins and Hecker remain associates despite the incident even though Hollins repeatedly had to scold Hecker for various acts deemed unprofessional by most in the organization. Yes, it is true that Hecker and Joerger never got along because of Hecker’s distrust of Joerger. Hollins even threatened to fire both years ago if they didn’t work out their differences. And, yes, it is true that Joerger hasn’t attempted to speak with Hollins since the end of last season.
Joerger didn’t speak with Hollins while Hollins was fighting for his job. Joerger didn’t speak with Hollins while Joerger was a candidate for the job. It is safe to say that Hollins and Joerger are no longer buddies in the coaching profession or otherwise.
Everyone in the organization reviewed video footage of Hecker’s encounter with that Thunder fan and was disturbed by Hecker’s actions. The fan was a big-time attorney whom Hollins eventually called to apologize for the incident. Thunder general manager Sam Presti couldn’t have been more grateful to Hollins for the gesture.
Here’s what I know: In the immediate aftermath, former Griz coach Lionel Hollins expected Hecker to return and was blindsided when Hecker went to human resources. Griz management (namely Mincberg) made the decision to terminate Hecker once he involved an attorney.
“Why would you hire a guy with no wins in the NBA and get rid of another guy who took you to 56 wins?” Hecker said. “Just from a strict business standpoint, why? They were afraid of Lionel, because they couldn’t control Lionel. … Joerger, because he had worked it so hard, they felt comfortable with him. They said they didn’t need Lionel, they could just hire (Joerger). He was taking all the credit, basically, anyway.”
Hecker also frequently butted heads with fellow assistant coach Dave Joerger, whom Hecker felt was angling for Hollins’ job. Grizzlies officials would not comment directly on the record about the matter, but a source did say that Joerger, worried about the perception that he would be named successor to Hollins (who was in the final year of his contract), made an effort to distance himself from the perception that he wanted the head-coaching job. Hecker disagreed. “I told Lionel two years ago, I said, ‘Lionel, this (guy) is going to get your job one day if you don’t watch yourself,’” Hecker said.
But Hecker said Hollins had resisted some of the changes management had made—he was angry about the trade that sent Rudy Gay to Toronto in January, for example—and was not going to be able to co-exist with the front office. He also suggested that there was resentment within the staff that Joerger was being credited as a defensive guru. Memphis allowed the fewest points per game last season, 89.3.
That, though, was just a triggering incident. Over the course of the season, Hecker’s relationship with Hollins was increasingly strained, and an outside source confirmed that, of all his staff members, Hollins tended to be hardest on Hecker because of their long relationship (the two had known each other more than two decades).
As for the strange end to his coaching career, Hecker said he is at peace with it. He has moved back to his house in Utah, and says he is coaching kids now. “I don’t need the NBA,” he said. “I am not one of these guys who wants to coach until I drop dead. I am coaching 11-year-olds and I enjoy that as much as coaching in the NBA. But the pay is not as good.”
Hecker pressed the team to pay off the remainder of this contract, which the Grizzlies did. There are no pending legal matters between the sides.
After Game 2 in Oklahoma City, the Grizzlies returned to Memphis for Game 3, and the staff gathered for its usual meeting. That’s when tensions boiled over. Hollins had heard about what happened on the sideline in Game 2, and called the Thunder to apologize. Rather than getting right into the game plan, Hollins asked what happened in Oklahoma City. “I know (Hollins) like a book,” Hecker said. “And I was like, ‘Oh s—, here we go.’” Hollins and Hecker argued. Finally, Hecker said, “I stood up and said to him, ‘Lionel, you don’t want to hear the truth. You don’t want to know what the hell is going on.’ Bottom line is, I said, ‘I am tired of the bull—-, I am just going to walk out of here right now.’ I never said quit or anything.” But Hecker did walk out of the meeting, and as far as Hollins was concerned, he had quit. Hecker, though, walked to Grizzlies human resources and complained about the treatment he had been getting, requesting mediation with Hollins
Hecker said there were high-school aged kids sitting with the offending stander, too, and that he also asked them to sit down. Eventually, he said, NBA security got involved and settled the matter. But, Hecker said, “I was getting calls, people were telling me I got into a fight with a 12-year-old or something. And I was like, ‘Well, I was not even at fault!’”
In an interview with Sporting News, Hecker detailed the situation that led to his departure, which effectively ended a well-respected career of over 20 years with teams including the Grizzlies, Clippers and Cavaliers, and the tension within the Memphis coaching staff that preceded it. Not only was Hecker let go during the playoffs, but Hollins—winner of 56 games last season—was not retained after his contract expired. It started with a situation involving a fan sitting near the bench. One rumored version of the story had Hecker going after a young fan sitting courtside, telling him to sit down because he was blocking the coaches’ view. Hecker said that was not the case. “There was a big guy sitting there next to our bench,” Hecker recalled. “He had to be 6-4, 250 pounds. He kept standing up, and they stand up a lot there in Oklahoma City, I can understand all that. But I said to him, ‘Sir, can you please sit down in a timely fashion because I can’t see the game?’ He says, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I am one of the assistant coaches.’ I told him, I understand standing up, it is exciting, you are in the front row. But he was blocking everybody.”
Grizzlies assistant coach Barry Hecker left the team during the Western Conference semifinal against the Thunder for what Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said is a “personal matter.” Hollins said after the team’s shootaround Monday morning that Hecker’s departure is “nothing that’s public consumption.”
Team officials say only that Hecker is “no longer” with the Grizzlies. Hecker had been on Hollins’ staff in Memphis the past five seasons. Hecker also has worked as a scout, player personnel director and assistant coach for the Clippers and Cavaliers.
Memphis Grizzlies assistant Barry Hecker has left the team during the Western Conference semifinals for what coach Lionel Hollins says is a “personal matter.” Hollins said after the Monday morning shootaround that Hecker’s departure is “nothing that’s public consumption.”
An ESPN.com article attempted to shed light on the situation but erred on how playoff bonuses were handled. According to sources on both sides, Hollins and the assistants each had playoff bonuses written in their contracts. Hollins received a set amount while each coach negotiated a percentage of their salary. For example, the lowest paid assistants received 10-percent of their salary as a playoff bonus. Other assistants received more per the terms of their contract.
After talking to people on both sides and sifting through the B.S., here’s the deal with the Grizzlies assistant coaches. Johnny Davis, Henry Bibby, Barry Hecker and Dave Joerger have contracts that run through June 30. They all (including the departed Damon Stoudamire) signed one-year deals just before the team left for summer league last year. Even after making a 16-game improvement and locking up head coach Lionel Hollins, the coaching staff went through the draft without new deals. Management is taking a similar approach this year: slow to negotiate deals while it researches how most NBA teams will handle a potential lockout. A source emphatically said that the Griz intend to have deals with the coaching staff by the June 23 draft. Those deals, according to the source, will likely include full pay during a lockout if it occurs. But don’t expect the Griz staff to go from being one of the lowest paid to receiving significant raises.