The Brooklyn Nets hired Lionel Hollins as head coach in July 2014.
The Nets have gone through three coaches since moving to Brooklyn from New Jersey two years ago. Will the hiring of Lionel Hollins bring stability to the Nets bench?
Born in Arkansas City, Kan., on Oct. 19, 1953, Hollins began his collegiate career at Dixie Community College in St. George, Utah. After two years in Utah, Hollins moved on to Arizona State University, where he enjoyed an outstanding career. In his two years with the Sun Devils he was twice named the team's most valuable player and started every game. Arizona State won 18 of 27 games in the 1973-74 season, with Hollins' 17.3 points per game leading the team. The 1974-75 season was even better, as the Sun Devils won 25 of 29 games, tied for the Western Athletic Conference title and advanced to the NCAA tournament, where they beat two Top 20 teams (Alabama and UNLV) before losing to top-ranked UCLA. For the second straight year, Hollins was named to the All-Western Athletic Conference first team, and Sporting News selected him as a first-team All-American. Unsurprisingly, Arizona State chose him for its Hall of Fame and in February 2011 retired his number 33.
The Portland Trail Blazers chose Hollins with the sixth overall pick in the 1975 draft. He made the All-Rookie First Team in 1976, and a year later the Trail Blazers advanced to the NBA Finals. They faced the Philadelphia 76ers, who had acquired Julius Erving, the highest scorer in the recently closed American Basketball Association, in a $6 million deal the previous fall. Erving scored 33 points in Philadelphia's Game One win, and the 76ers beat the Trail Blazers by 18 in Game Two. Portland responded by blowing out the 76ers in Games Three and Four and surviving a Philadelphia rally to win Game Five. Back in Portland for Game Six, the Trail Blazers were holding on to a two-point lead with 18 seconds left when they committed a turnover. But the 76ers failed to capitalize, missing three shots in the final eight seconds, and Portland held on to win the championship. Hollins averaged 16 points per game in that series.
This team achievement was followed by individual success for Hollins: he was an All-Star and named to the All-Defensive First Team in the 1977-78 season. The Trail Blazers traded Hollins to the 76ers in February 1980. He played in two Finals with Philadelphia before being traded to the San Diego Clippers in October 1982. In December 1983, he signed as a free agent with the Detroit Pistons. His final team was the Houston Rockets, with whom he signed in September 1984 and spent a season with before retiring.
Hollins' first post-NBA job found him back at Arizona State as an assistant coach. He returned to the NBA in 1988 as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns won at least 53 games in each of Hollins' seasons on the bench and went to the 1993 Finals. He left Phoenix in 1995 to become an assistant coach with the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies. His first stint as interim head coach came when he replaced Brian Hill with 60 games left in the 1999-2000 season. The Grizzlies, who had won only four games at that point, won 18 games after Hollins took over. He filled that role again for the Grizzlies (who had moved to Memphis by then) for four games after Hubie Brown resigned in 2004-05.
The Trail Blazers retired Hollins' number 14 in April 2007. He was hired as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks in May 2008, but his time there was short-lived as the Grizzlies hired him as head coach in January 2009. The Grizzlies enjoyed their first winning month in three years that April but finished the season with only 24 wins. Although they again missed the playoffs in 2009-10, they improved to 40 wins.
Memphis won 46 games in 2010-11 and advanced to the conference semifinals. A lockout reducing the season to 66 games didn't prevent the Grizzlies from recording the best overall winning percentage (62.1 percent) and home winning percentage (78.8 percent) in team history in 2011-12. The Grizzles became the first team in 15 years to lead the NBA in steals and forced turnovers for two straight years that season. Hollin was named Coach of the Month for April 2012, the second time he had received the honor while in Memphis. But the team's regular season success didn't continue into the playoffs as they were eliminated by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.
The Grizzlies reached even greater heights in 2012-13, winning 56 games and advancing to the conference finals for the first time in team history. Nevertheless, the team's new owners chose not to renew Hollins' contract. He worked for NBA TV and SiriusXMRadio during the 2013-14 season.