Further evidence of the volatile nature of NBA front offices: Memphis Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien and assistant general manager Stu Lash were fired a few hours ago by owner Robert Pera. According to USA Today, the shakeup was the result of an internal power struggle involving Levien, Pera and team attorney David Mincberg, who had been pressing for a more influential role in basketball operations.
Longtime Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace once again will oversee basketball ops, at least for the immediate future.
There are a number of interesting back stories here. Levien, an attorney and former player agent, was hired by Geoff Petrie in 2008, only to be pushed out 18 months later. The two had very different management philosophies and clashed mightily over the potential benefits of drafting Ricky Rubio. Levien went on to assemble the ownership group that bought the Philadelphia 76ers - purchasing his own minority shares in the process - but quickly became disillusioned with his limited role in personnel matters. A year later he sold his shares in the 76ers and became CEO of the Grizzlies new management group headed by Pera. Levien’s more interesting moves included hiring ESPN analytics guru John Hollinger, whose status remains unclear, and trading Rudy Gay and his massive contract to Toronto for Tayshaun Prince.
According to numerous reports, Levien’s relationship with Pera began deteriorating earlier this season, when the Grizzlies owner both became more involved in daily operations and empowered his lead attorney with greater authority.