New Memphis Hustle Head Coach Brad Jones was the head coach of the Austin Toros in 2012 when the Memphis Grizzlies called up then-Toros guard and Memphis native Lester Hudson near the end of the 2011-12 NBA season.
During his short time back in Memphis, it has become clear what Coach Jones’ favorite aspect of coaching in the NBA G League is.
“In all of my years in the G League, winning a championship is fabulous but when you get to sit down with a guy and say congratulations and that their dreams are met… it gives me chills right now just talking about it.”
You read that right. Coach Jones brings a championship pedigree from the NBA G League level to Memphis. That season, his Austin Toros won it all, and he also led the Utah Flash to the championship series in 2009.
Combine that with having seven of his players called up on 12 occasions and it appears the Hustle found the right man to lead the team into its second season. While he has spent the last few seasons out of coaching in the NBA G League, Jones looks forward to both the challenges and new advantages that the growth of the league presents.
“Hopefully the past experiences and the success we’ve had will be able to translate,” said Jones. “That’s on me and my staff to be able to know what’s worked in the past, to be able to connect with the guys we think we’re going to have this year. There’s more resources, a better talent pool, so figuring that out will be a big challenge. It’s grown immensely so that’ll be fun to get back into coaching and reconnecting with how the G League works.”
Jones was drawn to the head coaching gig for the Memphis Hustle by both the working proximity between the Grizzlies and Hustle along with his ties to the area.
“I was mainly excited about the synergy and connectivity between the Grizzlies and the Hustle,” said Jones. “In talking with Coach Bickerstaff, Chris Wallace and the gang here, they made it very clear their vision of what the Hustle is and how it is in a supportive role and a valuable role to the Grizzlies – for a number of things from community involvement, resources, player development, staff development. They were really good at showing me their vision and got me very excited about the opportunity in Memphis.”
Jones is a 1990 graduate of Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., where he was a player, assistant coach and eventually took the program to new heights as the head coach from 1996-2002. Under Jones’ leadership, Lambuth won two conference championships, made the first national tournament appearance in school history and earned the schools’ first national tournament win. Additionally, he was named Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year twice and led Lambuth to its highest national ranking (2) in school history. Jones also holds a master’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Memphis.
“It’s like coming home,” said Jones. “Obviously, when you work in the NBA and you’re from Nashville – my wife is from Baton Rouge – to have the opportunity to come back to Memphis is the perfect spot from the family point of view,” said Jones. “My wife is already running into people in town that we knew from Jackson. With the family here, we’ve already seen them more in a month or so than the last year being in Utah. It’s very exciting to be back and it’s nice to get the barbecue again. I’m very excited about the move back and it’s been a great transition for my family.”
Jones has additionally seen his share of experiences in the NBA ranks, spending four seasons with the Utah Jazz (2012-16) where he worked his way from assistant coach for player development to Quin Snyder’s lead assistant coach for his final two seasons in Salt Lake City. Last season, he served as a General Manager of the NBA G League’s Iowa Wolves and as a pro scout for the team’s parent affiliate, Minnesota Timberwolves.
“To me, one of the beauties of the G League is how hard guys play,” said Jones. “They’re hungry, and it’s not a bad thing, but they’re trying to get out. They’re trying to impress somebody so they can get that jump to the NBA or a bigger deal overseas. From a fan point of view, it’s a really exciting setting when you go in and see guys playing that hard and that hungry.”