Lynn DeBruin, Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY — After being thrown into the fire following Jerry Sloan's abrupt retirement in February, Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin has had to wait, albeit impatiently, for his first true season as head coach.
Now the former journeyman player finds himself in crunch time, with the lockout-shortened NBA season leaving him with precious little time to prepare a young, fairly inexperienced team.
Those who know Corbin well say he's ready, even if the deck is stacked against him.
"He's been dealt a hand that will be awfully difficult to get off to a good start," said Jazz broadcaster Ron Boone, a good friend and golfing buddy. "But there's good talent here. I hope he gets a fair opportunity."
That Jazz management hired Corbin without an interim tag is an indication he will be afforded such.
The 48-year-old Corbin also is realistic.
"I thought the honeymoon period was last year," he said during 18 holes at Eaglewood Golf Course in September. "The fans and everybody understood there were a lot of changes, especially for us here. It was a tough situation, but like I tell the guys, you're still expected to play and compete."
Going into this weekend, he has nine players on his roster, plus two lottery picks, and whatever free agents the team can sign or re-sign.
"I expect us to be competitive," Corbin said. "What number that is I don't know, but I expect us to be competitive every night we step on the floor."
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are the elder statesmen. But there also are four players — Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Jeremy Evans and C.J. Miles — who are 24 or younger in addition to 19- and 20-year-old rookies.
Equally telling are the numbers from last year when the Jazz set a futility mark for missing the playoffs at 39-43 following a 27-13 start.
"The disappointing number is we were 8-20 the last 28 games," Corbin said of his record as head coach after Sloan retired. "It's not all bad in those numbers. We had some moments … the energy we played with at the end and the identity we tried to create is going to be of great value going forward."
Corbin's stamp on the team, however, has yet to be determined.
He said he learned a valuable lesson playing at DePaul, when he watched another great coach step aside.
After 42 seasons as coach, Ray Meyer retired in 1984 and son Joey Meyer took over when Corbin was a senior.
"He changed a lot of things because he wanted to let everybody know it was his team more than Coach Ray's team," Corbin said.
A squad used to running slowed down. Though it reached the NCAA tournament, it made a quick exit.
Corbin said that experience taught him a lot.
"I wasn't concerned as much about it being my team," Corbin said of taking over after Sloan's unexpected departure. "It was the Jazz and you couldn't change everything in the middle. I didn't feel I needed to show the guys I was in charge. You have to be an authority figure, but you have to show them it's not an ego trip."
Boone seconds that, saying Corbin isn't about ego. And he's not about pleasing everybody.
"I always thought the mistake coaches make is trying to be too buddy-buddy with players," Boone said. "Ty's approach has been right on."
Like so many others, Boone is eager to see Corbin's offensive and defensive philosophy.
"He'll be able to take bits and pieces from a lot of different coaches he's been under," Boone said, noting Corbin played for nine teams over 16 years. "I'm sure there were certain styles he thought were most effective."
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