As soon as information was released Tuesday morning by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Memphis Grizzlies had selected Taylor Jenkins as their newest head coach, many people messaged me, looking for my opinion on the hire. I probably disappointed many of them, because I really didn’t have much to say. Also, to those who are reading this: If you are looking for an in-depth breakdown on the new Grizzlies head coach, then this might not be first place that you need to visit. I mean, I’m honored that you decided to come here, but like many, I really don’t know much about Jenkins outside of things that are easily accessible with a Google search. I also won’t pretend that I knew who he was before he arrived on the Grizzlies radar a few weeks ago as a potential candidate. So hey! Let’s take this time to learn more about Coach Jenkins, together.
Jenkins, who was previously the assistant coach of Eastern Conference finalists Milwaukee Bucks, comes into his new position as the second-youngest NBA head coach, at 34 years old — behind only Ryan Saunders, of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He represents a growing trend of current and recent NBA head coaches who have had previous experience in the NBA Developmental League — joining Nick Nurse, Quin Snyder, and Dave Joerger, among others. Jenkins won a G League Championship with the Austin Toros during the 2011-12 season. He also has front office experience with the San Antonio Spurs as an intern in the scouting department, as well as with draft preparation. He indirectly falls from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree by way of the offshoot Mike Budenholzer coaching branch that includes the Brooklyn Nets' impressive head coach Kenny Atkinson, and the Utah Jazz' resurgent head coach Quin Snyder.
Jenkins also has been credited as being the mind behind the Milwaukee Bucks offense, which is highly attack-minded, with an emphasis on finding open three-point shooters. The Bucks finished with the overall best record in the NBA and had the fourth-highest offensive rating in the league. They also had the highest net rating. They were fifth in pace and second in true shooting percentage. The Bucks were second in the league at 12.8 three-pointers made and attempted per game, fourth in free throws made, and third in free-throw attempts. He is seen as a player’s coach, and known for developing young players. He comes to the Grizzlies as a highly recommended and up-and-coming assistant coach by former players, fellow coaches, and media members, alike. The hope is that he can lead the Grizzlies' young core that will include Jaren Jackson Jr. and possibly Ja Morant into a new era and style.
If you were looking for the Grizzlies to hire a former head coach who comes in with an impressive coaching career, then those frustrations should have subsided much earlier in the coaching process. The Grizzlies showed their hand pretty much throughout the entire hiring process and it was clear that they were targeting someone young, innovative, and who could fit in with the culture and DNA of the ownership and management of the organization. The Grizzlies have also made it clear that they value someone who is moldable and pliable over someone who is older and tenured. The slate is clean within the organization and the hope is that since they are hiring someone in the image of the management, they will work as a more cohesive unit than what team management has displayed over the past few years. The Grizzlies have had several awkward and even embarrassing relations between ownership, management, and the coaching staff. Hopefully, Jenkins is a step in a much more positive direction.
Will Jenkins be the answer as the Grizzlies head coach? Your guess is as good as mine. He could be the next great head coach or he could be gone in a year and a half, like so many before him. He could be what the team needs to carry its young core into their ultimate destiny, or he might be the coach who hands them over to someone else when they reach their prime. First-time head coaches who were former assistant coaches in Memphis range from successful leaders of men like Lionel Hollins to the hot assistants who flamed out early, like Marc Iavaroni. There is no formula to predict what the Grizzlies have in store with Jenkins.
That said, optimism is usually a good route to take when it comes to coaching hires, and I’m willing to do so until proven otherwise.