This isn’t how Taylor Jenkins envisioned his first season as an NBA head coach.
Jenkins, who was hired by the Grizzlies in June 2019, led the team to a 32-33 record and an eighth-place spot in the Western Conference before play was halted due to the COVID-19 crisis.
When the season resumes later this month with the NBA’s “bubble” plan, the Grizzlies will look to hold their No. 8 ranking, and thus clinch a playoff berth or a play-in tournament spot, amid resistance from other conference teams.
During a media availability earlier this month, Jenkins said one of his team’s biggest priorities in the restart will be once again finding chemistry.
“Really getting back on the floor and just tangibly making sure we’ve got our habits underneath us,” Jenkins said. “What are our principles? Defensively, from transition, how we cover pick and rolls to how we contest on rebounds. Offensively, how we run in space and drive and kick and all those things.”
And what happens in Orlando could loom large over the future of Jenkins’ tenure in Memphis.
If the Grizzlies can make the playoffs, Jenkins’s resume will already look significantly better, as he will have led the team to the postseason in just his first year at the helm.
Plus, just two more wins will mark an improvement over last season’s 33-49 record. Anytime a new coach leads a team to a better record than the previous campaign’s, optimism for the future flows.
The reverse is also true, though. While Memphis’s current 32-33 record is impressive considering its recent history, if the Grizzlies flame out and lose their postseason spot, Jenkins will have more to prove in Year Two and beyond.
New coaches are always on a quest to show they belong in their respective jobs, which can be an unbelievably tough endeavor, especially in the NBA. Every game counts, and a disappointing conclusion to his first year would force Jenkins to have to do more to earn the fans’ trust moving forward.
Jenkins has even taken time to analyze himself while waiting for play to resume. He said that, through dialogues and film study with players and staff members, he taken advantage of self-reflection in looking back on his first season as a young head coach.
“The answers that I received from my assistants, from our players, a lot of times was in line with what I’m thinking,” Jenkins said, “or something different that allowed me to challenge myself, knowing that (we’re) very fortunate to be able to come back to this restart.
“Obviously, I’ve got a lot of things in my head that I want to address, a lot of things that I want to keep doing the same.”
And how Jenkins addresses those answers, and thus whether or not the Grizzlies are successful during the NBA’s restart, could ultimately have a major impact on his outlook in Memphis.