LinkMemphis, Tennessee, April 3, 2005 — The Grizzlies announce that General Manager Dick Versace is leaving the organization to pursue other professional opportunities.
Versace's contract has concluded after five years of service with the Grizzlies. In 1999, Grizzlies Majority Owner Michael Heisley hired Dick Versace to lead an acquistion team to pursue the purchase of an NBA franchise. Within a year, working with Versace, Heisley bought the Vancouver Grizzlies. Versace took over as President of Basketball Operations and served in that capacity through the team’s inaugural season in Memphis. When Jerry West joined the Grizzlies in 2002, Versace assumed the role of General Manager.
"My six year run with Mike Heisley has been the most rewarding professional experience of my life. I am forever grateful to Mike for the opportunity, the professional successes, and our friendship,” said Versace. “I am proud to be a part of the acquisition, rebirth and revitalization of this franchise. It has also been a singular honor and a privilege to work so closely with Jerry West, from whom I have learned so much. I will greatly miss working with Jerry, and the incredible people within the Grizzlies organization. I will also miss our wonderful fans in Memphis and the Mid-South, who share my passion for the game."
Grizzlies President of Basketball Operations Jerry West said, "Dick Versace and I enjoyed a terrific working relationship. Over the past three years, Dick has contributed immensely to the rebuilding of this franchise, and his contributions prior to my arrival in Memphis speak for themselves. This will be a great opportunity for another NBA franchise to acquire an outstanding basketball mind and a first class individual."
"I would like to thank Dick Versace for his critical role in the acquisition of the franchise and the rebirth of our basketball team,” said Heisley. “Our six years together has been a rewarding experience full of challenges and successes. This is Dick's decision to pursue other professional opportunities and responsibilities, and I wish him the very best in his future professional endeavors."
Versace began his college coaching career at St. Louis University in 1972, after compiling a 204-66 record at the high school coaching level. He then moved to Michigan State, where he was heavily involved in the recruitment of Magic Johnson. Versace’s first head coaching assignment was at the Jackson (Michigan) Community College in 1976.
His college coaching career ultimately included nearly 20 wins per year, three league titles, an NIT championship, and coaching one of the only two teams in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference (Bradley Braves) to achieve a perfect 16-0 conference record. In his last year at Bradley University, the U.S. Basketball Writers’ Association named him National College Coach of the Year.
He hadn't been doing much of anything since Jerry West came to town, and frankly, I'm surprised it took him this long to resign.
Still, you have to appreciate his time with the franchise and his role in bringing the team to Memphis.