SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz just saw one longtime member of the family leave, but they're welcoming an even bigger one back into the fold.
Jeff Hornacek is out.
Karl Malone is in.
In a surprise, The Mailman announced that he's accepted a part-time job to help coach the Jazz big men.
"We as a Jazz organization have got a great stable of big guys," the Hall of Fame power forward said Wednesday on the team's radio station during an interview with CEO Greg Miller. "I'm excited."
"I think your involvement with our bigs," Miller replied, "is going to help us win more ball games."
It's also made at least one of the Jazz bigs a happy young man.
Jazz power forward Derrick Favors' desire to improve was one of the impetuses leading to Malone landing a role he's lobbied for in the past. Favors, who turns 22 in July, reached out to management in hopes of receiving personal tutoring from The Mailman this offseason.
"You can't find too many better people to work with your bigs," Favors' agent, Wallace Prather, said. "I think it's great for everybody involved — from Derrick, to Enes (Kanter), to Jeremy (Evans) to whoever else finds their way into the organization."
It is unknown how much time Malone will spend as a coach on Tyrone Corbin's staff, but while being interviewed on the side of the road with his hazard lights blinking "down in the country of Louisiana," The Mailman expressed excitement and a serious commitment. Malone used words like proud, happy and honored to describe his feelings about working with the Jazz again for the first time since he left Utah to join the Lakers in 2003.
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun," Malone said during the 1280 The Zone interview. "I know a lot of people are going to have a lot of questions about how much time it's going to take, but I think we'll all have a lot fun with it. I'll be looking forward — time and schedule permitting — to working with the big guys."
As for the details, Malone said there aren't any specifics just yet. He travels to Utah a couple of times a month and hopes to work with the post players during those periods this summer.
"We haven't discussed nothing other than that I'll be coaching the bigs," Malone said.
Miller said the Jazz and Malone are in somewhat of an experimental mode, which is similar to Hornacek's previous role from 2007-11 as the team's shooting coach. Neither party is sure if this could lead to a more permanent position on the bench.
"Right now, our agreement is he's going to come in on a periodic basis and help our guys," Miller said. "If it develops into more than that, it could be a good thing."
Malone has already had a one-on-one workout with Favors. He's also met with Kanter, who continues to rehab from his April shoulder surgery and won't be able to go 100 percent until later this summer. Malone said he has and will keep in close contact with Corbin to shape the sessions and strategy.
“It is great to have Karl as a resource for the team,” Corbin said in a statement. “He is one of the most talented big men to have ever played this game.”
Malone, an original Dream Teamer, is the NBA's all-time second-leading scorer and a two-time MVP during his Jazz career. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2010, joining teammate John Stockton and coach Jerry Sloan. He also has a statue in front of EnergySolutions Arena and a street next to the building named after him.
Even so, Malone has grumbled in the past about how the team hadn't reached out to have him be more involved after he retired from the NBA. Miller and the vocal 6-foot-9 behemoth got into a public feud in 2012 before resolving their issues and, ironically, beginning the framework for his return to the organization.
Miller was impressed when he recently saw Malone work with the 21-year-old Favors. He could tell Malone had put in a lot of prep work, asked a lot of valid questions and effectively ran the workout.
"My expectations were high, but he exceeded them," Miller said. "It was just exciting for me to know that Karl was that committed to doing it. I was absolutely excited."
Favors also had a ball.
"He was ecstatic," Favors' agent said of his talented 6-foot-10 client, who'll join Gordon Hayward at their second Team USA mini-camp this July in Las Vegas. "He's looking forward to working with him and learning as much as possible from him. He hopes to be on that level some day."
Malone said it'd be "a waste" just to come in and try to work with Favors on his shooting. Rather, he hopes to fine tune "the little small nuances," such as working in the post, running the floor, putting pressure on smaller guys and getting out wide.
In other words, Malone added, "All the things that Jerry Sloan taught me."
Malone, who still has an auto dealership in Draper, said his love for Utah has grown since the days he played for the Jazz from 1985-2003. Every time he returns and looks at the Wasatch Front mountains, Malone said he tells himself, "I miss this."
Malone added that the Jazz are "such a classy, storied organization," and admitted he took that for granted during his playing days. That's something he'd like to make sure his new pupils are well aware of while they're young.
"It just made a lot of sense from an organizational standpoint," Miller said, "to have one of the greatest players to ever play the game offer his services to our up-and-comers."
Malone's announcement comes a day after his former teammate, Hornacek, was hired to be the new head coach of the Phoenix Suns.
With only two full-time assistants on staff — Sidney Lowe and Michael Sanders — the search is on for Hornacek's replacement. Malone made it clear that he realizes he isn't an all-out assistant and that Corbin is the main man.
"I don't have all the answers," Malone said. "But I tell you what, I wouldn't mind sharing with these young kids my experiences that were positive as well as negative — my shortfalls as a man that they don't need to do. It's not just about basketball."
When they were exploring this working relationship, Miller said he jokingly told Malone: "Karl, I know what your work ethic's like and our bigs are important to us, so don't kill them on the first workout."30 comments on this story
Judging Favors' reaction, that didn't happen.