CITY BEAT 

Winless Grizzlies have NBAÕs most bloated front office.

EIGHT IS ENOUGH Nobody in the NBA can boast the experience, talent, variety of moves, diversity, and above all the depth of our Memphis Grizzlies. Of course, we’re not talking about the team on the floor, which was 0-10 at this writing. We’re talking about the one on the bench, and behind it, and behind them, and up in the suites, and who knows where else. The Memphis Grizzlies are the only team in pro sports with six-- count ‘em, six-- active or former pro head coaches plus two former college head coaches on the payroll. Average age: 62. In the corporate world, a company with eight aging CEOs in its organization might be called, dare we say it, top-heavy. Such an organization might be expected to produce actual results. Or trim payroll. But there is no world like the world of big time pro sports. Quoting here from the 2002-2003 media guide: “The Memphis Grizzlies have an eye on building a successful future by carefully assembling one of the best collections of young talent in the NBA. Luckily for those young players, they play for an organization whose front office is one of the most experienced in the league.” You can say that again. With the all-important player-to-coach ratio at 1.5 to 1, the Grizzlies are, as they say, loaded. There are decent-sized companies with fewer secretaries than the Grizzlies have coaches. Suburbs have smaller operating budgets than the combined coaching payroll. It’s a wonder there are enough clipboards to go around. We’re the Sun City of NBA coaching. The next NBA coaches reunion might as well be in Memphis since so many of them are here already. Now let’s get to the lineup. At captain and starting at point guard, 69-year-old Hubie Brown. Younger than John Wooden, Joan Collins, and the Queen Mum. Older than Mick Jagger, Bill Russell, and the Amazing Kreskin. Still has great spring in his legs, range in his voice, can work the clipboard with either hand or even upside down, and will always beat the press corps off the dribble. Best of all, as white guy drawing Social Security, is “hip” to young black guys. Great moves, as shown by new $10 million multi-year contract. You’ve heard that the NBA is dead set on expanding its shrinking audience and tapping new markets? Well, viewership at the Lewis Senior Citizens Center is through the roof, and Depends is looking at buying a sponsorship. At shooting guard, the immortal Jerry West. Sweetest jump shot ever, tenacious defender, averaged 27 ppg during his career. What would he average today with the bigger, faster, more athletic players? Probably only 20. But then he’s 64 years old. At center, Chuck Daly, 72. Two NBA championships with the Detroit Pistons, the fearsome Bad Boys. Gave it up when he conceded that “sooner or later, they stop listening to you.” Considered probably the best-dressed coach in the NBA. Advises team on haberdashery. Can still take it to the rack -- the rack at Saks Fifth Avenue. At small forward, Lionel Hollins. This promising youngster, just 49 years old, looks to have a great NBA future once he gets his AARP card and a couple more decades of experience under his belt. Free agent picked up in the offseason to provide depth at the crucial asistant to the assistant to the assistant to the assistant president and general manager spot. “The Kid” figures to get some pine time with the addition of Hubie Brown but could get the call if Griz fail to deliver on Heisley ultimatum of double-digit “Ws” by Memorial Day. At power forward, Dick Versace, 62. Chuck Daly’s sidekick in Motown. Big cheese for the Indiana Pacers in 1989, then, like Hubie Brown, moved up to the big time, that being, of course, television analyst for TNT. His current duties include and and as well as . Sixth man. Sidney Lowe, 43. Benched last week for being a poor shooter, lousy passer, weak rebounder, and pathetic defender as team got off to 0-8 start. But then what do you expect from a guy several pounds overweight and wearing a suit and tie and street shoes? Unlikely to see any more playing time this season, but goes in the books as winningest coach in Grizzlies’ history and gets a big assist in the Hubie Brown acquisition. Bench Strength: You never know when a starter might run out of Suscatal. These fellas may not have been head coaches in the NBA but they know their way around the hardwood and can always be counted on to “step up” and fill out a foursome at the bridge table, the links, or the shuffleboard court. Gene Bartow, 70, who prepped at Memphis State University just 30 years ago and refreshed his skills with the immortal Memphis Houn’ Dawgs in 2001, looks to get plenty of time replacing the fluid in the copy machine but can also answer the phones. Gary Colson, a 68-year-old veteran with a deadly two-handed set shot, lends support to starter Jerry West and is the odds-on favorite in the Hubie Brown lookalike contest. There they are, sports fans. A total of $186,674,973 worth of talent. A combined 787,654 career victories, 89,996 playoff game appearances, and 62 grandchildren. And that’s despite losing several of their best years to WWII! Like the media guide says, “Production is always the benchmark when we judge a winner.” Anybody seen Dana Kirk?

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