There hasn't been much action on the Milwaukee Bucks' coaching search front since the news broke that Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew would interview for the position, which he did last Monday. According to a report from Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times, however, Drew isn't the only current head coach the Bucks might be interested in poaching:
If you believe some insightful NBA officials, it’s simply because the Bucks are playing the waiting game. They are biding their time until the Memphis Grizzlies’ season ends and they can talk to Grizzlies free-agent in-waiting coach Lionel Hollins.
Hollins was hired back in 2008 as an assistant under newly-installed Bucks head coach Scott Skiles. Hollins had previously served as an assistant in Phoenix and interim head coach with the Grizzlies on two separate occasions. He didn't stay in Milwaukee for long, signing an agreement with the Grizzlies in January, 2009 to replace fired head coach Marc Iavaroni.
In four-plus years as head coach in Memphis, Hollins has a 196-155 (.558) record. His teams have been very good the last two seasons, winning 41 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season and 56 this past year. The Grizzlies have improved dramatically on defense each year of his tenure, from 21st in defensive rating the year he took over to 19th, 9th, 7th, and finally 2nd in 2012-2013. Plenty of credit for that improvement should go to the emergence of Marc Gasol as one of the top defensive (and overall) centers in the game, as well as the presence of lockdown perimeter defender Tony Allen. PG Mike Conley has developed into a terrific player and the Rudy Gay trade pulled off by Memphis' new management looks brilliant. Hollins hasn't exactly had to work magic to get where he is--he's got a very, very good roster to work with.
Like Drew, Hollins has no contract with Memphis beyond this season. Considering his success, he'll be a highly sought-after coach for many teams. So why would the Bucks, who were recently turned down by Jerry Sloan because they were too far from contending, have a shot at Hollins? Money, for starters. Herb Kohl may not entertain heavy luxury tax penalties from the roster, but he's shown a willingness to lure premier coaches from glitzier markets with generous contracts, including Mike Dunleavy Sr. and George Karl.
Woelfel says that some NBA officials also believe Hollins has interest in the Milwaukee job due to his former tenure there and a roster that matches his style. Larry Sanders might not be Marc Gasol, but he's an emerging defensive presence and has lots of room to grow. Luc Mbah a Moute is also available as a perimeter stopper to emulate Allen. If Hollins is interested in building the team around a defensive mindset, he could have free reign in Milwaukee, which has plenty of financial and roster flexibility beyond this season.
The calls will surely come quick when Hollins' playoff run with Memphis comes to and end, but don't expect the Grizzlies to let him go easy. The front office wasn't prepared to commit with an extension before or during the season, but if they judge him to be a crucial part of the team's improvement there's little doubt the money will be there.