NBA notes: King, Grizzlies and Cavaliers part ways with their coaches

Sacramento Kings coach Dave Joerger on the sideline during a game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 16.
(Karen Pulfer Focht / Associated Press)

The Sacramento Kings fired coach Dave Joerger on Thursday after three losing seasons.

Joerger had a 98-148 record since joining the Kings, but also helped the team reach its best record in 13 seasons this year with 39 wins. However, that wasn’t enough to earn him a fourth season to try to end the NBA’s longest active playoff drought. Sacramento last made the playoffs in 2006 in coach Rick Adelman’s final season.

“After evaluating the season, I determined that we need to move in a different direction in order to take us to the next level,” general manager Vlade Divac said. “On behalf of the entire Kings organization, I want to thank Dave for his contributions to our team and I wish him all the best.”


Divac made the move official just hours after receiving an extension of his own contract through the 2022-23 season by owner Vivek Ranadive. Divac took over as GM before the 2015-16 season and helped bring in some of the key pieces that have led to the improvement this year, including guards Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox and big men Marvin Bagley III, Willie Cauley-Stein and Harry Giles.

Divac also made a trade this season to acquire forward Harrison Barnes from Dallas in hopes of making a playoff push, but the team faltered down the stretch, going 9-16 after the All-Star break.

“Vlade has been vital to what we are building here and I am so pleased to announce his extension,” Ranadive said. “Throughout his entire career, Vlade is someone who has always made those around him better, both on and off the court. I look forward to our bright future ahead.”

Grizzlies fire coach, reassign GM to scout

The Memphis Grizzlies fired coach J.B. Bickerstaff on Thursday as part of a front-office shake-up in which general manager Chris Wallace was demoted to a scout.

The Grizzlies announced the moves after both Bickerstaff and Wallace spoke to reporters following a second straight season outside the playoffs. After a 12-5 start, Memphis plummeted and finished 33-49, tied with New Orleans and Dallas.


Wallace had said earlier that Bickerstaff would be returning after doing a “terrific job.” But controlling owner Robert Pera didn’t agree and restructured the front office a few hours later.

“In order to put our team on the path to sustainable success, it was necessary to change our approach to basketball operations,” Pera said in a statement. “I look forward to a re-energized front office and fresh approach to Memphis Grizzlies basketball under new leadership, while retaining the identity and values that have distinguished our team.”

Bickerstaff was named interim coach in November 2017 after the Grizzlies fired David Fizdale . He was given the job without the interim title last May. Now Memphis is looking for a fourth head coach since choosing not to renew Lionel Hollins’ contract after he led the Grizzlies to their lone Western Conference final appearance in 2013.

Now Jason Wexler will be president of the Grizzlies overseeing both basketball and business operations, and Zachary Z. Kleiman replaces John Hollinger as executive vice president of basketball operations with Hollinger moving to an advisory role. The Grizzlies are keeping former player Tayshaun Prince as a special adviser.

Cavaliers won’t bring back Drew

A person familiar with the decision says the Cleveland Cavaliers are not bringing back coach Larry Drew for a second season.

Drew, who led the Cavs to a 19-63 record after taking over when Tyronn Lue was fired Oct. 28, was informed Thursday by general manager Koby Altman, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not commented on the move.

Drew was praised by players for guiding them through an injury-filled season, the club’s first since LeBron James left as a free agent. Altman will now hire the Cavs’ fifth coach since 2013.

The 61-year-old Drew had been with the Cavs since 2016, when he was brought to Cleveland by Lue. The team won the NBA title in Drew’s first season on Lue’s staff.

When he replaced Lue, Drew knew the Cavs might go in another direction at some point and asked the team to restructure his contract.

Suns name Jones full-time GM

The Phoenix Suns have removed the interim tag from general manager James Jones and hired Jeff Bower as senior vice president of basketball operations.

The team also said Thursday that Trevor Bukstein will stay on as assistant general manager.

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Jones was appointed interim GM when the Suns fired Ryan McDonough before the 2018-19 season. He will oversee all basketball operations, with Bower and Bukstein reporting to him.

A former Suns player, Jones spent the last two seasons as Phoenix’s vice president of basketball operations and last season shared general manager duties with Bukstein.

The Suns finished with the worst record in the Western Conference at 19-63.