The Grizzlies may have Pau Gasol and Shane Battier as their marquee players, Jerry West as their GM and a spanking-new arena, but the club’s marketing push has gone bananas pushing new coach/Hackensack native Mike Fratello, hired Thursday.
A mammoth full-page ad in the Memphis Commercial Appeal yesterday announced: “WE FOUND ANOTHER WAY TO SPELL HUSTLE: F-R-A-T-E-L-L-O.”
The ostentatious broadsheet ad continued: “Mike Fratello. The Czar. 1986 NBA Coach of the Year. Hubie Brown disciple. Architect of nine playoff seasons. Renowned NBA broadcaster and analyst.
“And now, the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. Hustle just got a new crusader. Grizzlies vs. Knicks, Tuesday, Dec. 7th.”
Fratello’s reputation for hustling teams was not enough to spur Isiah Thomas to hire him last January. Fratello’s rep as a slowdown coach in Cleveland was the No. 1 turnoff for Isiah.
Fratello said he plans on running with Memphis and resents his rep.
“Unfortunately, the label stays with you,” Fratello said at his press conference.
As for breaking his 51/2- year coaching sabbatical, Fratello said, “If you know what it was like sitting next to Marv Albert all these years, you’d understand how anxious I was.”