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Grizzlies' front-office shake-up leads to exits of CEO Levien

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The Canadian Press
5/19/2014 4:34:19 PM
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies have parted with team CEO Jason Levien and director of player personnel Stu Lash in a front-office shake-up that follows the Grizzlies' elimination in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Grizzlies announced the moves Monday.

General manager Chris Wallace assumes interim responsibility for basketball operations. Jason Wexler, the Grizzlies' chief operating officer, remains responsible for business operations.

Robert Pera, the Grizzlies' controlling owner, thanked Levien for his hard work in a statement.

"Rest assured that we remain as committed as ever to bringing a championship to this great city, and we are confident that when the new season begins our fans will be excited about both our roster and the direction of our organization," Pera said.

Levien had been the Grizzlies' CEO since Pera and his ownership group took control of the team in November 2012, and one of his biggest decisions was the hiring of Lash as director of player personnel and former ESPN writer John Hollinger as vice-president of basketball operations. The first season went well as the Grizzlies reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

Then Grizzlies decided not to bring back coach Lionel Hollins, instead promoting Dave Joerger to head coach. Under the first-year coach, the Grizzlies went 50-32 and reached the playoffs for the fourth straight season. But Memphis lost in seven games to Oklahoma City in the opening round of the playoffs.

Under Joerger, the Grizzlies struggled at the start of the season going 10-15. He also lost centre Marc Gasol 23 games with a sprained left knee, and guards Mike Conley and Tony Allen also missed games with injuries. Joerger wound up using 17 different starting lineups with Levien and the front office making a variety of moves bringing in Courtney Lee, James Johnson from the D-League and Beno Udrih off waivers.

The Grizzlies had to win the final five games of the regular season to earn the No. 7 seed. But guard Nick Calathes was suspended for 20 games for violating the league's anti-drug policy by testing positive for tamoxifen, Memphis was blown out with a chance to close out the Thunder on its own court in Game 6 and then Zach Randolph was suspended for Game 7.

Memphis has some big decisions to make this off-season. Randolph has a player option for next season at more than $16 million, and Gasol has two more seasons left on his contract.

"Wow," Allen wrote on Twitter.

NBA Basketball (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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