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Mike Sorensen: To keep or not to keep Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, that is the question

Published: Sunday, April 20 2014 6:05 p.m. MDT

Utah's Head Coach Tyrone Corbin reacts to a call as the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder play Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — By now, the Jazz may have already made a decision concerning the fate of longtime Jazz player, assistant coach and head coach for the past three-plus years, Tyrone Corbin.

If so, you can stop reading right now.

If not, here are a few reasons the Jazz should keep or not keep Corbin as their coach.

KEEP: First of all, Corbin is a good guy. There’s no real disputing that. Going back to the time he played for the Jazz in the 1990s, he was one of my favorite Jazz players because he was always respectful of the media and never acted like a knucklehead in any way. He didn’t hide in the training room or belittle a dumb question. He’s been the same way as the Jazz's coach, never avoiding interviews or offbeat questions. It’s always best if you can have a good guy representing your franchise in perhaps the most visible position to the outside world.

NOT KEEP: The Jazz are coming off a 25-57 record, their second-worst since coming to Utah 35 years ago and the fourth-worst in the NBA this season. When your team is that bad and fans aren't coming out, change is usually necessary.

KEEP: Corbin was dealt a bad hand this year. General manager Dennis Lindsey admitted that the Jazz finished pretty close to where he and other management types figured they would at 25-57. If that’s the case, how can the Jazz justify letting a coach go that they basically set up for failure? If the Jazz brass figured on a 25-win season, then Corbin hit the bull's-eye.

NOT KEEP: Before the season, Lindsey emphasized the three “Ds” — development, discipline and defense — for this year’s team. Corbin did well for the most part in development by giving young players Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter Alec Burks and Trey Burke plenty of playing time, although you wonder why he didn’t go with that lineup a little sooner than the final four games. The team had discipline — no one got in trouble and the players were disciplined in their approach to the game.

As for defense, you’d have to say the Jazz were a failure this season. They ended up ranked No. 30 in the league in defense out of 30 teams. You can’t blame poor shooting on a coach, but defense is another matter.

KEEP: Who will the Jazz get that will be better than Corbin? Phil Jackson’s not coming through that door and Jerry Sloan isn’t about to come out of retirement. I’ve always said, you better have a better coach in mind before you make a change and if the Jazz don’t have such a coach, maybe they shouldn't make a change, just to make a change.

NOT KEEP: Corbin seems to struggle as a bench coach. Too many times he would stick with the same lineup in a game when a change seemed obvious and too many times the Jazz would lose leads in the final quarter. The latter could be blamed on young players not knowing how to finish. Or on a coach not knowing exactly what to do. Successful coaches are quick to make adjustments in the fast-paced NBA game and in that regard Corbin has been lacking.

So what are the Jazz going to do? The fact that Corbin was not given a contract extension before the season began was a good clue that he wasn’t likely to be the coach beyond this season no matter what happened — outside of a berth in the playoffs. And the Jazz would have had to win twice as many games as they did to achieve that goal.

Perhaps the biggest reason why Corbin won’t be back is the lack of fannies in the seats. EnergySolutions Arena was the greenest (empty seats) it’s ever been during games since its opening in 1993 and interest is so low that scalpers are practically giving tickets away before every game. The Jazz have committed themselves to rebuilding with young players and now they’re likely to find a new coach to guide the youngsters and bring some hope to the Jazz faithful.

The Jazz haven’t let a head coach go since Dec. 11, 1981 when Frank Layden replaced Tom Nissalke. That’s an astounding record for a sports franchise when coaches are fired at the drop of a hat these days. Whether it’s right or not, it may well happen this week for the first time in more than 32 years.

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