Utah Jazz: Tyrone Corbin has the respect of players, peers

Published: Thursday, March 29 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Even after losing two of three games away from home to Eastern Conference playoff teams, the Utah Jazz held their heads up high upon their return.

It helped that, as usual, their head coach was helping to prop up their chins.

Rain or shine, Tyrone Corbin has a way of maintaining his sunny disposition.

After stormy losses — even in the dreary month of February — Corbin usually points out silver linings instead of clouds.

If the NBA adds a Positive Coach of the Year award, the Jazz's bench boss would be a front-runner.

Heck, Corbin might even receive consideration for the regular award considering what his team has been through over the past year and what the second-year coach has gotten his players to do since they nose-dived out of the playoff picture last spring.

"I vote that," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said. "He's done a great job of staying with it as a coach."

Though he obviously gets paid nicely to do that, staying with it hasn't been an easy task.

The Jazz were in shambles when Corbin took over last year. The team had imploded on multiple levels — from locker room turmoil spilling over to on-the-court woes, to Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan and his faithful sidekick Phil Johnson deciding they'd had enough midway through the season, to Jazz brass shipping off their star player, Deron Williams.

"Things happen the way they happen, and you've got to be ready," Corbin said. "I felt I was ready when I interviewed for the other jobs. Unfortunately and fortunately, Coach decided to do something different and the organization had enough confidence in me to promote me to this position."

This was a bonus for Jazz players.

Not only had they worked with Corbin before, during and after practices when he was the second assistant coach, but the team's new bench boss wasn't that far removed from his successful NBA playing career.

Corbin was young (then 48) but experienced, likeable and knowledgeable. The former Jazz player and seven-year assistant of Sloan's seemed the right fit to put a new-school twist on his mentor's old-school system and bridge the franchise's successful past to a hopeful future.

The beginning was bumpy, though. The Jazz dropped eight straight at one point, and Corbin's coaching record was 8-20 by the time the season mercifully ended.

"Last year was rough. He basically (got) thrown into that front seat," Jazz small forward C.J. Miles admitted. "It was tough, but at the same time, he did a good job last year once he got a little more comfortable as the year (went) on at just really stepping in that role, 'OK, I got it. This is mine now.'"

Corbin admits he's "a lot more confident, a lot more relaxed" now that more than a year has passed.

From an outsider's view, Celtics coach Doc Rivers admires what Corbin has accomplished.

The Jazz are in a playoff position in a year not many expected them to do much of anything but earn a high lottery pick. Corbin has blended a mix of young and old players, implemented a new defensive scheme, tweaked the offense and, oh yeah, done that without being able to contact his players for five months and with a shortened training camp.

"He's been terrific," said Rivers, who's known Corbin since their playing days.

Rivers especially appreciates how Corbin has coached his team to success with the unusual youth and veteran squad split.

"And," Rivers pointed out, "they're able to work together … that's what Ty has done an excellent job of."

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