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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – After the Memphis Grizzlies' season ended Monday in a sweep from the Western Conference finals by the San Antonio Spurs, the team's biggest free agent this summer could be coach Lionel Hollins.
Hollins' contract with the Grizzlies ends on June 30, and the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks are expected to ask for permission to speak to him about their coaching openings, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Hollins' wish is to stay put in Memphis.
"I hope things get worked out quickly. I love our team and the possibilities," Hollins texted Yahoo! Sports after the Grizzlies' 93-86 Game 4 loss to the Spurs.
Hollins made $2.3 million this season in the last year of his contract, a source said. While the Grizzlies have interest in retaining Hollins, a contract extension has yet to be offered to him.
The Grizzlies have increased their winning percentage every season since Hollins was hired Jan. 25, 2009. He led the Grizzlies to their best record in franchise history (56-26) this season and first trip to the West finals, despite the midseason trade of Rudy Gay. The Grizzlies also have a new owner in Robert Pera.
Hollins and Grizzlies chief executive officer Jason Levien will discuss Hollins' future with the franchise this week, but it's uncertain if a contract extension will be offered, a source said. Until Hollins' contract ends, the Grizzlies have the right to deny permission to other teams interested in interviewing him.
"I have been able to take a group of young guys and build them into a team, teaching work ethic individually," Hollins told Yahoo! Sports. "I've held them accountable. Taught them how to work hard, what it means, and how to win. They were not a winning team. I showed them what it took to win.
"It's not just me. They wanted to win and they didn't know how. And they took to the instruction. Hopefully, as we go forward or whatever happens, if I'm in another situation, I'd be blessed to have a team that can do the same thing because that's half the battle. Finding a group that has a will to play hard and will to want to win and just need to be taught how to do it."
Hollins owns a 214-201 coaching record with the Grizzlies that includes interim stints with the franchise in Vancouver during the 1999-2000 season and Memphis during the 2004-05 season. He has been able to mold a diverse group of egos into a winning team.
"Coach Hollins has been great with this team and has been doing a good job of leading them," forward Zach Randolph said. "He puts us in the right spots. I definitely want him back. Ever since he's got here, he's helped me a lot. He's been in my corner. I definitely want him back. He does a good job for us and is a right fit for us."
Said center Marc Gasol: "He's a great part of where we are today. We came from a 20-game-winning team to the team we are today. We are still growing. We have a lot of room for growth and we got to keep doing it as players, as a team, as coach."
Clippers owner Donald Sterling attended Game 1 of the West finals in San Antonio and sat across the court from where Hollins stood in front of Memphis' bench. While the Bucks have interest in Hollins, they think the Clippers or Nets have a better chance at landing him. Milwaukee will give Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew and Houston Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson second interviews this week, Y! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
When asked about the expected outside interest from other teams, Hollins said: "It's nice to be in that boat. But I don't gloat and think that nobody is this or nobody is that. It's not even about any of those [teams]. It's about my life and my goals and what I'm trying to accomplish. It has nothing to do with anybody else. There are a lot of coaches who have been in a situation where it took a while for an opportunity to get [a job]. And then they ran out and proved they were great coaches."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich also offered strong praise for what Hollins has accomplished in Memphis.
"The job he's done here is beyond excellent," Popovich said. "He's put in a system that fits the players perfectly. They respond to him. They play hard. He's had some tough situations to overcome as the year has progressed and done it in style. It's just a heck of a basketball team and it begins with what he's instituted."
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