After a late November game last season where Marc Gasol was again benched for the entire final frame, David Fizdale was fired as coach of the Grizzlies. The rift between the star center and coach was thought to be the impetus behind the termination. When Fizdale returned to FedEx Forum for the first time since he was let go on Sunday, it got a little dusty in the visitor's locker room following New York's surprise win. Fans also found out there was a mending of fences between player and coach, as ESPN's Tim MacMahon reports.
It all got sorted with a simple phone call, which Fizdale called "fantastic."
"It was two men that evolved," Fizdale told MacMahon. "That's pretty cool to see a moment in your life, individually as a man, where your life changed and you got better because of it, somebody made you better. I credit him for that. He made me a better coach. He made me a better person. I was lucky to be his coach."
Gasol was more understated in his assessment of their convo, but acknowledged they were both at fault for not coexisting as well as they could have when Fizdale was coach.
"We're both appreciative, and we both understand that it wasn't perfect," Gasol told ESPN. "We both would have handled it differently, not last year but the year before when everything happened. We won't let that happen again. It's simple: You live, you learn, and you move on. We made peace with each other, and that's it."
Gasol added a 3-point shout under Fizdale's tutelage, which helped him adapt to the contemporary game. Before that, he showed a soft touch around the rim, but he wasn't pulling opposing bigs out of the paint like he does now — he's shooting 39.5 percent on 4.5 three-point attempts per game so far this season, both career highs. Another former Defensive Player of the Year Memphis is reportedly interested in, Joakim Noah, never added that important skill to his game, and he's still trying to find a new contract.
At the end of MacMahon's piece, Fizdale juxtaposed his reconciliation with Gasol to what currently divides Americans: "I think it's pretty cool in a time that we all live in, and people are so mad at each other, here we are two guys that have squashed it and are cool."