Barone interim era starts for Grizzlies

Updated: December 30, 2006, 11:27 PM ET
Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis Grizzlies interim coach Tony Barone is taking a cautious approach after taking over the NBA's worst team.

He certainly isn't invoking the name of New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank, who won his first 13 games when the Nets gave him his first NBA coaching job in 2004.

"That's heresy to do that," Barone said. "Now, we'll take that. If that happens, that would be fine."

Barone, the team's director of player personnel, got a start on Frank's record Saturday night after the Grizzlies beat the Toronto Raptors 110-104 to snap a five-game losing streak. Barone coached Texas A&M and Creighton in college, but has only been an assistant in the NBA .

Barone was chosen as interim coach on Thursday after the Grizzlies fired Mike Fratello. Jerry West, president of basketball operations, noted the need for a leadership change after Memphis dropped its fifth straight in a lackluster performance against Milwaukee on Wednesday night. Memphis is 6-24, the worst record in the league.

West said the Grizzlies were not playing with emotion and had lost confidence. That forced the firing of Fratello, the franchise's winningest coach who took over for Hubie Brown in December 2004.

Barone, who served as an assistant for Brown's two seasons, said calls he's received were running about 80-20 -- 80 percent congratulatory, the other 20 percent sympathetic.

As for his new duties, Barone said, "it's a pain in the neck." He noted there are more responsibilities with the head coaching job as compared to player development, such as getting to the arena earlier than a half hour before a 7 p.m. tipoff.

"I got here at 4:30," Barone said. "It's ridiculous. My wife, Kathy, said: 'Where are you going?' and I told her: 'We have a game tonight, and I thought I would coach the game. So I thought I might go over a little early to get acclimated to the locker room and stuff.' "

A change in style certainly seemed on its way for the Grizzlies, maybe even a return to a deeper rotation Brown used with success. Before the game, Barone indicated that Fratello's deliberate, halfcourt offense, will be replaced by a more free-flowing approach. He's simplified the offense and pared down the number of plays.

"We're going to play basketball with our guys as opposed to running plays simply to run plays," Barone said. "I think that we've got to clear their mind a little bit in terms of comfortability on the court."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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