After eight seasons as an assistant with the Miami Heat, David Fizdale accepted the head coaching job with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Friday, he appeared on my afternoon show on 790 The Ticket for his first radio interview in South Florida since the move.
Here were some of the highlights...
-- Fizdale says he joked with Heat assistant Juwan Howard about the Memphis Commercial Appeal mistakenly running a photo of Howard as the Grizzlies' new head coach. "We're like brothers. He's just so happy for me right now. We shared so many great memories together, where our families are very close."
-- He called it "surreal" to pack up his things at AmericanAirlines Arena. "You think about what we accomplished in a short amount of time. I've been next to (Erik Spoelstra) his whole time as a head coach, and him being one of my best friends. To be saying goodbye is a surreal experience. Because I'm super excited obviously to take on this new venture, but it's very difficult to walk away from people you've invested so much into. And you walk down Championship Alley there and there's pictures of me hugging Andy Elisburg and Coach Riley and Spo and players. You take a deep breath and you take it all in. Because it was definitely something to be admired. And I was just happy to be a part of something like that."
-- What has the Heat's support meant? "It's been incredible. It's actually funny, because after we won the first title, Dwyane (Wade) and LeBron (James) came up to me, right afterwards, and we were celebrating, we had champagne all over us and we just kind of sat back in one of the lockers. And both of them had their arms around me, and said, 'Hey, you got to turn this into a head coaching job right now.' And I looked at both of them, and I asked them if they were both crazy. I said I'm trying to get a couple more championships before I get out of here. So it started then, where they were already trying to support me and push me to that point. But after that, and to accumulate all of the wins and a couple of championships, I can't really describe it to have that kind of support. In professional sports, and in a business atmosphere, to be that close to people and to really be able to say someone is your family, is very rare. And I never take it for granted and I'll always cherish it with those guys."
-- Why did Fizdale push for the Grizzlies gig, after backing away from other opportunities? Why them, now? He said "they have some players there you can really give yourself a chance to win with." He also got good reviews on people inside the organization. "That right there gave me a comfort level where this was a place I could get to another level or at least take the shot at. And I think my itch, quite honestly. I think at some point every coach gets that itch, where they want to take that jump and they want to challenge themselves to see if they can lead a group of men to the top. I think I was at that point, where the right opportunity and the right time. And I think the fact that I leaned on Riley and I leaned on Spo to tell me what's a good opportunity. You know. It's easy to look at some things. But I leaned on the people that have always been honest with me. And all of these guys say, you know what, that is great window of opportunity, and it will give you a chance to take a shot at it. So I felt very good about going after it whole-heartedly. Those guys really supported me in going after it. They helped me prep for it. Everybody invested in my preparation.... It was just an awesome experience, and I knew this was the place I wanted to be."
-- What was Spoelstra's preparation for the interview like? "I had a really good feel for the Memphis team going into it. First what he did, he rented out a whole room where he stays at, at the Ritz. And we just made a war room like we would for the playoffs. And we had the white boards and we had our computers out. And whatever I didn't know about the organization, those guys that I mentioned helped me out big time, just giving me as much information about their players, their roster, their cap space, things like that. What Spo really did a great job of helping me do was help me implement the system that I wanted to play in, he helped me connect that to the personnel that they had. And really show them a vision of how I want to use the players they have, while also bringing in the Heat culture that we already know that is a part of our fabric. In 24 hours somehow, those guys, with him spearheading it, they really got me ready for that interview. The best advice he gave me, 'Fiz, you know, you've been here eight years, this is who you are now, this is your fabric, just go in there and be yourself.' And that's what I did. And I think my personality and my views and my values really clicked with those guys and they really clicked with me. And I'm really happy that it worked out."
-- How high did the bidding get with Spoelstra for Heat assistant Dan Craig? After a long laugh.... "Let's put it this way. Spo said no, that was it. Hey, but you better believe I asked. Because Dan Craig, I tell you what, we're watching a star in the making. I take a lot of pride in those guys that worked with us. I really spent a lot of time trying to be a guy that helped develop them. And Dan Craig, I will call him one of my prized jewels. Spo and I will both take a lot of pride in that one, when he gets his shot. He's ready to move into that next spot next to Spo. What he did in the D-League was absolutely incredible this year. I really, I can't explain it. I felt like a blood big brother when he accomplished that. I just had so much pride about him. And he's going to be a heck of a coach. So I tried. I took a shot. And I got shot down quick, which I was expecting. And it's just a credit to Dan that everybody wants him."