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NBA: Joerger returns to Minnesota roots Saturday

When you have one of the 30 most stressful jobs in the National Basketball Association, the sport virtually consumes your life 24/7/365. A grueling 82-game regular season is followed by an exhausting postseason that can stretch from mid-April to ...

Photo credit / Joe Murphy (NBAE/Getty Images) / Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Joerger throws the ball back into play during a game against the Golden State Warriors last season. The Staples-Motley graduate will conduct a clinic at Minnesota State University Moorhead Saturday, Sept. 12.
Photo credit / Joe Murphy (NBAE/Getty Images) / Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Joerger throws the ball back into play during a game against the Golden State Warriors last season. The Staples-Motley graduate will conduct a clinic at Minnesota State University Moorhead Saturday, Sept. 12.

When you have one of the 30 most stressful jobs in the National Basketball Association, the sport virtually consumes your life 24/7/365.

A grueling 82-game regular season is followed by an exhausting postseason that can stretch from mid-April to the end of June. There are countless demands on your time from the organization and from the media.

Those factors have prevented David Joerger, head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, from returning to Minnesota the last few years. But the 1992 Staples Area High School graduate and 1997 Minnesota State University Moorhead alum will be home Saturday, Sept. 12, to conduct a coaches clinic at Nemzek Hall on the MSUM campus. Long-time NBA and NCAA basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik, a Grizzlies assistant, will accompany Joerger.

"It's a place I love. Obviously, I went to school there, but more than that I have a lot of good memories from high school playing up there in the regions," Joerger said by phone from Memphis last month. "It seems like everything we did was up there. If we wanted to go shopping, a lot of times we would go to Fargo-Moorhead.

"I've got a lot of friends there. I haven't been back for a while so I'm excited about that. I'm also excited for the clinic to be able to see people I might have played against, played with, knew in college or went to school with. It's a small-town feel even though it's a bigger city. It seemed that everyone got along and we had a lot of good times."

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The clinic will be from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $100 for early registration. Walk-up registration Saturday will be $125. Additional coaches from the same coaching staff will cost $75.

Lunch will be provided from noon to 1 p.m. Those interested in attending may sign up online at tickets.mnstate.edu/search/clinic . The camp is open to coaches at any level of basketball.

Joerger, who was considered for the Minnesota Timberwolves head coaching job last season before returning to Memphis, was one of the most successful minor league head coaches of all-time - winning five championships in seven years. He spent the next six years as a Grizzlies assistant before being named head coach June 27, 2013.

In addition to the clinic, Joerger addressed a number of other topics:

Q: Staples graduate Chad Walthall coached MSUM to a 35-4 record (most wins in school history) in 2014-15 and the Dragons were selected to play in the NCAA tournament. MSUM's postseason run included a trip to the NSIC Tournament championship game, an NCAA Central Region Championship and an Elite 8 appearance, the first in school history. What do you think of the job Chad's doing at your alma mater?

A: "He's done a super job, he's laid the groundwork through hard work, good solid recruiting, recruiting good people. He's doing it the right way that you can be successful for a long period of time. He didn't go in there trying to spin it out and sell himself out to be successful for a short time. He built it the right way. I think he will be successful for many years to come."

Q. How has your life changed since you became the Grizzlies' head coach in 2013-14?

A. "From a coaching standpoint, not a ton. I was fortunate to a be head coach (in the minors) before. I don't know - had I not been a head coach in the minor leagues - that I would have been able to survive day to day in this league. There's a lot of pressure, a lot of stress.

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"The biggest adjustment is your time is no longer your time anymore. A lot of people have access to you. You have a large amount of responsibility not just to your team and to your organization, but to the media and to the community. You want to serve all those people and at the same time still be a good family man, a good husband, a good father. "The demands on your time are certainly more than in the minor leagues."

Q. With all the demands on your time, how do you balance basketball and family?

A. "My wife (Kara) is fantastic. She's a South Dakota gal. She does a tremendous job. I'm biased, but I think she's the best assistant coach in the NBA. Because of me moving around, going wherever I've got to go, she's been extremely supportive. Partly it's due to our roots. We have a farm, a couple acres, horses, dogs, kids - it's just like growing up back home. We've installed those principles in our kids (daughters, Alli and Kiana), being outside, with nature, the responsibility of having animals, putting hay up, whatever it might be. Those things keep you grounded.

"Both the families we come from are down to earth. Nobody looks at us any different, nobody treats us any different."

Q. You're entering your ninth season in the NBA. Do you still stop once in a while and think you're living a dream?

A. "Oh yeah. I say that all the time. What am I doing here? What am I staying at this hotel for? How come I'm flying first class on a charter team plane?

"(Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach) Nate Tibbetts was an assistant coach of mine in Sioux Falls. We were sitting in Las Vegas at a private dinner, sitting with Rick Carlyle, sitting with Rick Adelman and other guys. We looked at each other and knew we were thinking the same thing - Who would have thought 10 years ago we would be sitting with Rick Adelman, a guy who won 1,000 games?

"Sometimes you've got to pinch yourself. I think what it does is it keeps you humble. I don't know why I'm here and why somebody else isn't. I want to enjoy it, take the right attitude about being around it."

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Q. The "Grizzlies Season Preview Dinner with Dave Joerger" is scheduled Sept. 22 in Cordova, Tenn. What can you say about the event which benefits the National Junior Tennis & Learning organization and inspired creation of the Dave Joerger Foundation?

A. "We started the Dave Joerger Foundation last fall. We're starting slow. We want to do it right. We want to help people. The No. 1 thing we want to do is help people play inner city tennis in Memphis through the NJTL, which is a program started by Arthur Ashe.

"I have a great love and fondness for tennis. This is a great way to get kids out. It's been tremendous, trying to raise funds for them. You try to build up your foundation so you're able to give to places you want to give to. It could be Staples High School, Moorhead State, a college fund for kids. It's an opportunity to raise funds and do those kinds of things so you set yourself up to help people, which is basically the bottom line."

Q. You finished the 2014-15 regular season 55-27 and made it to the Western Conference semifinals. What's the Grizzlies' outlook for this season?

A. "It's going to be another challenge. We have pretty much the same crew coming back. Stability is good. We've added a couple pieces that can support and complement our main core of guys.

"Every year you look at all the good players that you wish would go to the East but they keep coming over (to the West). There are a lot of good teams. Night in and night out it's very competitive. It's really cool."

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

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