The Grizzlies officially introduced their next head coach Wednesday.
Taylor Jenkins will be the head man for Memphis after spending six seasons under Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta and Milwaukee as an assistant coach. The Bucks had the best record in the league, while Giannis Antetokounmpo transformed into an MVP candidate this season.
Jenkins also spent five seasons with the Austin Toros, San Antonio’s G-League affiliate. He was head coach for a season after serving four years as an assistant coach. Jenkins also interned for the Spurs in their basketball operations department, and he’ll bring that front office experience to the Bluff City.
“We wanted someone who had incredible basketball acumen, but also the ability to connect with people,” Zach Kleiman, Memphis’ EVP of Basketball Operations, told reporters.
“Some of the things that he showed us and some of the things he incorporated into his style, I think, best suits the players we have and the players we’re trying to build around and the players we want to have here in a Memphis uniform,” added Tayshaun Prince, Memphis’ VP of Basketball Affairs.
“I thought it blended well, I thought it fit great.”
After being a perennial playoff contender for most of the decade, the Grizzlies suffered back-to-back losing seasons, including a 33-49 campaign last season. The Grizzlies, who are reportedly exploring trade deals for veteran guard Mike Conley, are rebuilding, and Jenkins will be expected to develop Memphis’ young talent.
That starts with big man Jaren Jackson Jr.
The rookie averaged 13.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in 58 contests prior to getting injured and being shut down for the remainder of the season.
Jackson became the second rookie in NBA history to record at least 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting at least 50 percent from the floor and 35 percent from deep. The other player: Hall of Fame center Arvydas Sabonis.
Luckily for Jenkins, Jackson’s all-around game makes him an ideal building block for Memphis in today’s NBA.
“He’s one heck of a player,” Jenkins said regarding Jackson. “He’s got so many tools, offensively and defensively, to be a stud.”
The Grizzlies also hold the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, something Jenkins said made the job appealing. Memphis is reportedly set to take PG Ja Morant with the selection, according to Stadium NBA Insider Shams Charania.
“We want to get the greatest competitor,” remarked Jenkins.
Morant, the overlooked recruit who exploded while at Murray State, fits that bill. He’s also the perfect floor general for the style of play that Jenkins wants to bring to the Grizzlies.
“I think as a team — philosophically — defense is going to be a priority for us,” said Jenkins. “We want to be the most competitive, most unselfish and most together team that we can be.”
And with Jackson Jr. and Morant leading the way for the new-look Grizzlies, Jenkins has the building blocks necessary to construct his ideal squad.