Utah Jazz: Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey says ex-Ute Alex Jensen has a 'bright future' in the NBA

Published: Wednesday, April 2 2014 8:15 p.m. MDT

Alex Jensen slaps hands with Gordon Hayward (20) of the Utah Jazz as the Jazz's starting lineup is introduced in Salt Lake City, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Dennis Lindsey remembers, even if Alex Jensen doesn’t recall the first time the two met.

It was clear back in 2001 after Jensen had graduated from the University of Utah and had a brief “cup of coffee” with the Houston Rockets, playing with the Rockets in the old Rocky Mountain Revue in Utah.

Jensen didn’t last long with the Rockets before taking his game to Europe, where he played, mostly in Turkey, for seven years. However, he made an impression on the current Jazz general manager, who had started as a video coordinator for the Rockets five years earlier and was working in player development at the time.

“We had a lot of respect for how he played and how efficient he was and how unselfish he was,’’ Lindsey says. “We always thought he had a chance, but we released him. That’s when we first met, but I’m sure Alex barely remembers.’’

After playing overseas, Jensen got back into coaching when his former college coach, Rick Majerus, invited him to join his staff at Saint Louis. Jensen coached there for four years before moving to the NBA D-League, where he coached the Canton Charge for two years, earning coach of the year honors in his second season.

Jensen returned to his home state last August as a player development coach for the Jazz and has been working primarily with Utah's big men all season. While it’s been a trying year for everyone involved with the Jazz, for Jensen it has been a valuable experience getting to know the NBA and working with young players.

“I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve definitely learned a lot,’’ he says.

Lindsey had something to do with Jensen joining the Jazz, although he says it was coach Tyrone Corbin’s decision to bring him in.

“I’m sure everybody thought it was a local tie — not that it would hurt him — but this job we hire on merit,’’ Lindsey said. “Ty had him in for an interview and he fit the culture really well. He’s humble, loyal, very smart and he’s a good communicator. You take things from different coaches, like Coach Majerus, but I think Alex is very comfortable in his own skin.’’

Corbin has been more than pleased with Jensen’s contribution to the Jazz this season.

“He has a great relationship with the big guys and he’s got a complete understanding of what it takes for a big guy to get better in this league,’’ Corbin said. “He communicates with these guys very well. He gets on the floor and bangs with them at times and they understand from him banging with them on the floor that he knows what he’s talking about. He’s gained the respect of the players.’’

That’s evident when you talk to the Jazz big men. Rookie Rudy Gobert gushes about “Coach Alex” in his broken English, and Enes Kanter has a special bond because of their connection to Turkey.

“He’s the kind of coach who can be friends with you, but he knows his basketball really well and has a high basketball IQ,’’ Kanter says. “He knows what every player needs and he’s helped me a lot this year.’’

*****

For much of his adult life, Jensen was heavily involved in college basketball and March Madness — as a player with the University of Utah for four years and as an assistant coach at Saint Louis for four years.

When he played at Utah in the late 1990s, Jensen was Rick Majerus’ favorite player. Although he may never have come right out and admitted it, Majerus always talked about “Al” with special fondness and never had a bad word to say about his three-year starter, who was the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year in 1999-2000.

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