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Grizzlies head coach was a volunteer at MSUM

Dave Joerger was in college when he got hooked on pro basketball.

The Memphis Grizzlies head coach was a volunteer for the Fargo-Moorhead Beez in his final year at Moorhead State, which is now Minnesota State Moorhead.

“That experience with the Beez, being around the pro game, is where the pro basketball bug bit me,” said Joerger, who is from Staples, Minn. “That is where the game got into me.”

Joerger was with the Beez during the 1996-97 season, helping the team in many areas. He worked in the office, delivered tickets and helped with practice.

A year later, he became an assistant coach with the Dakota Wizards in Bismarck, setting him on the path toward becoming an NBA head coach.

Joerger was named the Grizzlies head coach at the end of June.

“There are a lot of people who have helped me get to where I am,” Joerger said. “This is special. It means a lot to me. There are only 30 of these jobs.”

Rory White – a former NBA player and coaching veteran – was the Beez head coach the season that Joerger volunteered.

White could tell Joerger had the potential to be a successful head coach based on the way Joerger approached his one season with the Beez.

“He had good leadership ability,” White said. “His enthusiasm for coming in volunteering really impressed me. … Some guys sit in the background and just watch, but he jumped right in and he wanted to be involved in drills and he wanted to learn as much as he could.”

Joerger was involved with planning practices, sat in on developing game plans and did individual work with the players, White said.

White would later coach against Joerger, who took over as the head coach for the Dakota Wizards in 2000-01.

“You knew when you played against Dave Joerger you had to be on top of your game because his teams were going to be well prepared,” said White, who most recently was an assistant coach for a team in China that is owned by former NBA player Yao Ming.

Joerger said it’s hard to name all the coaches that helped him, either as a player or colleague, on his path to being an NBA head coach.

“Probably too many to mention,” Joerger said.

Earlier this week, Joerger added Duane Ticknor to the Memphis staff as an assistant. The two worked together with the Wizards in 1999-2000. Ticknor was the head coach while Joerger was an assistant.

“You just try and take a part from everybody,” Joerger said of the all the coaches he has worked with. “I have a part of all of those people with me, but I can’t be any of those people. … I can’t be someone that I’m not.”

Joerger is in a unique situation for a first-time NBA head coach. He’s not taking over a rebuilding project. The Grizzlies had a 56-26 record last season, making it to the Western Conference Finals.

“You have to deal with expectations, but we have a group of guys that care about each other and are talented,” Joerger said. “Those are all positive things to go forward with.”

Joerger paused when asked what he thinks his first game as the head coach of the Grizzlies will be like.

“I will certainly be very excited,” Joerger said. “I don’t want to take one day as a NBA head coach for granted.”

Eric Peterson | Forum News Service

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