Ever since Los Angeles Clippers own Donald T. Sterling showed up in San Antonio for a playoff game between the Spurs and the Grizzlies, the rumor has persisted that Lionel Hollins was on a short list of coaches the Clippers might like to hire to replace the departed Vinny Del Negro. Only problem: Hollins still works for the Grizzlies, at least for another month (his current contract runs until June 30).
Another name that has apparently been on the Clippers wish list is Denver Nuggets head man, George Karl. But if Hollins seemed unlikely, Karl seemed even more so. After all, Karl is one of the most respected coaches in the league, and just won the NBA Coach of the Year award while leading the Nuggets to their most successful NBA regular season ever.
Suddenly, these two names that seemed pretty distinctly out of reach are at least a bit more feasible than originally thought. Hollins and the Grizz haven't made much progress on reaching an extension agreement, despite Hollins' stated goal of staying in Memphis. As a result, the Grizzlies are giving him permission to speak with other teams, a major development in the process. We'll see if the Clippers are one of the teams with whom he speaks.
Meanwhile, in the NBA regular season success doesn't satisfy critics when unaccompanied by post season success (just ask Del Negro), so Karl's situation is reportedly more tenuous than you might think -- Ramona Shelburne describes it as 'unsettled.' And neither coach is aided by recent shifts in the teams' front offices. A new regime took over in Memphis mid-season, and their new-fangled analytics-ways supposedly don't mesh well with the coach's old-school mentality. In Denver, GM Masai Ujiri was just poached by the Toronto Raptors, raising the question of whether a new GM might want a fresh start.
To be clear, Hollins and especially Karl remain long shots for the Clippers job: odds are they'll stay right where they are. Even if Karl starts the season on the hot seat, it doesn't do the Clippers much good since they will have already made a hire. But both Hollins and Karl just got a bit more available than they were, which makes things a bit more interesting.
[Note by Steve Perrin, 06/02/13 4:53 PM PDT ] About the same time I was writing this, Sam Amick of USA Today reported that the Grizzlies are seriously considering handing the reins over to assistant Dave Joerger, so the odds are looking much better that he will leave Memphis -- just as several commenters below were predicting.