The Grizzlies have hired Bob Bender as an assistant coach and Bob Thate as shooting coach on head coach David Fizdale’s staff.
Bender comes to Memphis after working last season as a scout for the Brooklyn Nets. His professional coaching experience includes: two seasons (2002-04) with the Philadelphia 76ers, first as an assistant coach/player development and then as an assistant coach; nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks (2004-13) as an assistant coach, where he worked alongside Fizdale for the first four seasons; and one season with the Milwaukee Bucks (2013-14) as an assistant coach. Bender began his coaching career as an assistant at Duke University under Mike Krzyzewski (1983-89) and later served as head coach at Illinois State University (1989-93) and the University of Washington (1993-2002). He was named the 1992 Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year at Illinois State and the 1996 Pac-10 Coach of the Year at Washington.
A Duke graduate, Bender is the only individual to play for two different teams in two different NCAA Championship games, one as a freshman on Bob Knight’s undefeated 1976 Indiana team and the other as a point guard at Duke in the 1978 title game against Kentucky. The Quantico, Va. native was drafted by the San Diego Clippers in the sixth round of the 1979 NBA Draft but did not play in the NBA.
Thate joins the Grizzlies after serving in the same capacity for four years (2012-16) with the Los Angeles Clippers and three years with the New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn), tutoring superstars such as Blake Griffin and Jason Kidd. Griffin shot 52.1 percent from the foul line during the 2011-12 season but saw his free throw percentage rise to 72.8 percent and 72.7 percent over the last two seasons, respectively, under Thate. Kidd shot 37.0 percent from three-point range over the final eight years of his NBA career after first working with Thate in 2005 (32.9 percent in his first 11 seasons).
A graduate of Occidental College in Los Angeles, Thate earned All-America recognition after setting the school’s single-season records for scoring average (27.2 points) and points scored (598) in the 1969-70 season. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1970 NBA Draft but instead embarked on a four-year professional career in France and a combined 23 years of coaching at the Division I college and high school levels, including stints at Pepperdine University, Loyola Marymount University, the University of California-Irvine and Long Beach State (now California State University, Long Beach).