Is Tyrone Corbin gone? Utah Jazz, coach's agent say no decision made yet
Corbin, who was involved in a couple of tough rebuilding seasons during his 16-year playing career, openly admitted Thursday that he knew the 2013-14 season was going to be a challenge after Lindsey, Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor and the Millers decided to not bring back experienced veterans and leading scorers Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
This season, after all, was more about development, defense and discipline (Lindsey’s three key D’s) as the Jazz decided to do a cannonball into the rebuilding pool.
That’s when Corbin, a former Jazz player (1991-94) and a fixture on Utah’s coaching staff since 2004, figured the odds were stacked against him in the final year of his contract. It's also important to keep in mind that the 51-year-old was not hired by Lindsey.
“Anything can happen in this league, man. I’ve been in it a long time. You want to have a fair shake and you want to have the best opportunity that you can have to win,” Corbin said. “The organization decided to go in a different direction from the guys that we had the year before. I knew it would be difficult.
“I said right from the beginning, ‘There’s no way when you change the roster like we changed (that) it’s good for the coaching staff, especially in the last year of their contract.”
The hard-but-somewhat-fulfilling part, Corbin has explained, is that this coaching staff had to spend an enormous amount of extra time on teaching basketball fundamentals to young players on top of trying to help them fine-tune the offense and defense while game-planning for opponents.
“Coaches who’ve been in a long time won’t put themselves in a situation where they have a young team, because of those things,” Corbin said. “It doesn’t matter how you scheme things when you have young guys. Young guys make mistakes in this league. Young guys you have more of those roller-coaster rides, and the emotions go with it.”
Even so, Corbin believes he and his coaching staff helped the Jazz’s youthful nucleus — Trey Burke (21), Gordon Hayward (24), Derrick Favors (22), Alec Burks (22) and Enes Kanter (21) — blossom through the growing pains. Those players each logged 2,100 or more minutes, gaining valuable experience and getting an idea of what it really takes to excel in the NBA.
“The young guys listened and they worked,” Corbin said. “(They) kept coming back every day and tried to get better and not getting down on their selves, and staying with each other and encourage each other and continue to fight.”
On the other hand, the Jazz really struggled to score, finishing with the second-lowest offensive output of 95 points per game. Perhaps even more daunting is that Utah finished dead last in the critical team defensive rating category, giving up 109.1 points per 100 possessions.
“We ranked 30th and we all have to own that,” Lindsey said. “There was a young playing group, to be fair to Ty and the coaches, and a new playing group that we threw together. Young players taking different roles, different minutes. We’ll reflect on that.”
Lindsey knows Jazz brass put Corbin in a difficult position this season, even if it’s a year that is supposed to be important in establishing a “championship-caliber” foundation.
“The defense, the development, the discipline — there’s some wins here and there,” Lindsey said. “There’s some areas that we were average in and, frankly, there were some areas that we need significant improvement. All of that will be part of the evaluation process for the coaches and the players.”
Last month, Corbin got a vote of confidence from one of his predecessors in the Jazz coaching ranks: Frank Layden, Utah's bench boss from 1981-88.
“I think that Ty Corbin is perfect,” said the retired Layden, who coached the Jazz to their first playoff appearance in 1984 before the Stockton-to-Malone era. “He’s going to take the raps because that’s the nature of the game (for coaches). You take too much credit when you win and you take too much of the heat when you lose.”
Layden doesn’t watch the Jazz on a regular basis, having moved to San Antonio to live by his son, Spurs assistant general manager Scott Layden, in the winter. But he knows Corbin well and has faith that he can help turn things around if given the chance.
“Johnnie Wooden (told) us that a good coach is one that wins when he has good players. Nobody can win with bad players,” Layden said. “This organization said in the beginning of the season, if I’m not mistaken, that we were building for the future, and this is not going to be a very good team, but you have to be patient and everything else.
“Well, the patience has to start at home,” he continued. “How can you say that and then be critical of the coach? Give him good players. He’ll be fine.”
At this point, Corbin would probably settle for simply getting another chance.
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