Utah Jazz: Tyrone Corbin's contract will not be renewed
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — When Tyrone Corbin was introduced as Jerry Sloan's replacement as Utah Jazz head coach during an unexpected press conference during the 2010-11 season, then-general manager Kevin O'Connor quipped that he hoped a similar event wouldn't happen for 23 years.
That was about the amount of time that passed between Sloan taking over for Frank Layden in 1988 and the Hall of Famer handed the coaching baton off to Corbin in 2011.
"Ty, if you do about the same as Jerry does, (in) 2034 we’ll have another one of these (introductory) conferences," O'Connor said. "We hope it happens again, and it will happen again, because Ty will do a terrific job."
It didn't take nearly that long.
Three years and two months after being named head coach, Corbin was informed by the Jazz organization Monday afternoon that his contract will not be renewed.
"I just want to thank Ty Corbin and his staff. It’s a very difficult decision-making process that our team undertook. There was a lot of deliberation," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said Monday afternoon following his meeting with Corbin.
"Everyone should know that Ty's a man of dignity, class and integrity. We’ll do nothing now in this press conference or moving forward that would disparage him (or) the coaches in any way. Today, we’re grateful for a period that they saw us through."
Former University of Utah head coach Jim Boylen has emerged as a preferred candidate to replace Corbin, according to sources. Boylen, who is the first assistant on Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs staff, worked closely with Lindsey when the close friends were with the Houston Rockets from 1996-2003.
While Lindsey said the Jazz hope to quickly find the ninth head coach in Utah Jazz's 40-year history, the general manager added that the process is just beginning now.
"We need to find the right person first," Lindsey said, refusing to give a specific timeline. "If we can find the right person in short order, we will work very hard to do so, but we’re going to be really thorough in this process because it’s such a monumental decision."
The decision to not bring Corbin back was finalized Monday morning, five days after the Jazz finished a rebuilding season with a 25-57 record, Lindsey said.
As for the assistants, Sidney Lowe, Michael Sanders, Brad Jones, Alex Smith and Johnnie Bryant were informed Monday that Corbin won't be brought back and that "(their) status going forward is unknown," Lindsey said. He added that it's possible they'll be reconsidered for future opportunities.
"We appreciate them and their expertise," Lindsey said. "The Millers were very generous in many ways to towards the coaching staff. ... We’re going to get through this phase and then we’ll talk about whether there is an ability for guys to stay or if we can help them elsewhere."
Corbin had been the Jazz's coach since taking over for Sloan on Feb. 10, 2011, after the Hall of Famer surprisingly resigned during his 23rd season at Utah's helm. The Jazz made the playoffs in 2012 to the surprise of some outsiders, but didn't qualify for postseason play in the three other seasons that ended on Corbin's watch.
The Jazz went 112-146 under Corbin, whose tenure included the departure of All-Star Deron Williams at the end of the tumultuous 2010-11 season, a variety of mix-and-match rosters from 2011-13 when Utah went 79-69, and an all-out rebuilding project this past season.
Lindsey refused to go into specifics about why the Jazz decided to part ways with Corbin, although Utah's 30th-ranked defense this past season certainly was a factor.
Lindsey's answer side-stepped a question about whether Corbing didn't follow any direct orders from the front office, which would have led to a possible chasm between the two. The GM answered by saying the Jazz are adamant about allowing the head coach to be "Babe Ruth" and make player and minute-distribution decisions.
But the GM denied that Corbin's oft-criticized dispersion of playing time for younger players in this development season was a big reason. In fact, Lindsey defended Corbin, saying the outgoing coach did a "fine job in determining who should play and rotations."
The Jazz felt that there were enough differences to go another direction from a man who's been on the coaching staff in various capacities since 2004 and played for the team from 1991-94.
"From 5,000 feet there were philosophical things. Sometimes you can have a philosophy that has great synergy, but it may just be the wrong time for a marriage or for a relationship," Lindsey said. "Sometimes there are going to be differences of opinion, whether it be personnel or what you're doing with personnel. I think you have to assume there were some different thoughts (between Corbin and Lindsey), and again that’s one of the reasons why we made the decision we made today."
Jazz owner Gail Miller, CEO Greg Miller and Miller Sports Properties president Steve Miller did not attend Monday's press conference. Lindsey, team president Randy Rigby and executive director of baskeball operations Richard Smith were the only front-office personnel at the EnergySolutions Arena gathering.
Greg Miller offered his gratitude via a press release quote and on Twitter: "Best wishes to Tyrone Corbin for success in the future. He is one of the classiest people I have ever had the privilege of working with."
The Jazz will now commence a search for only the fifth head coach in 35 years since the franchise relocated from New Orleans in 1979.
Corbin is the first Jazz coach to be let go (technically, he has until the end of June) since then-general manager Frank Layden fired Tom Nissalke, the original Utah-era coach, early in the 1981-82 season.
Layden proceeded to coach until he called it quits early in the 1988-89 season, opening the door for Sloan's legendary Utah career. Sloan, like Corbin, was tabbed as the successor as an assistant on the Jazz staff.
The Jazz will have a wide variety of candidates to choose from, but it wouldn't be surprising for Lindsey to hire somebody with whom he's had previous working experience with in San Antonio or Houston. It's uncertain how much Boylen's struggles at the University of Utah will factor into the final decision.
In addition to Boylen, other possible candidates to replace Corbin include former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy (Lindsey's old boss with the Rockets); Suns assistant Mike Longabardi, a defensive specialist who worked with Lindsey in Houston; Bulls assistant Andy Greer (also at Houston with Lindsey); well-respected college coaches Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State), Tom Izzo (Michigan State) and Larry Krystkowiak (Utah); current Jazz staffers Brad Jones and Alex Jensen (both highly regarded up-and-comers); and international coach Ettore Messina (an Italian currently coaching CSKA Moscow). Former NBA coaches George Karl, Stan Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins and Nate McMillan are also intriguing possibilities, among others.
John Stockton still has school-aged children and Karl Malone has a very busy non-basketball schedule, so don't expect either former Hall of Famer to move into contention for a full-time coaching job at this time.
Lindsey was asked last week what qualities he's looking at in a coach for the 2014-15 season.
"The head coach of this program has always been and stood for the right things, so I’d say a continuance of what Ty and Jerry and Frank Layden have started and built over the years," Lindsey said. "You guys heard the discipline and the development and the defense (themes) because this iteration needed all three characteristics, not only from coaching and playing but ownership and management."
Lindsey added that if the Jazz stay young the organization would require "clearly an improved emphasis in the defense" as well. Finishing 30th in team defense this season could have been the ultimate deciding factor against bringing Corbin back.
"Championship-caliber teams are somewhere inside the top five or six both offensively and defensively," Lindsey reiterated Monday. "I would say this — being a defensive program going forward is very important to who we are and what we want to be. We want to establish that foundation."
Lindsey said the organization didn't regret making a coaching decision last offseason, which would have allowed a new coach to help develop the young core of Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks during the rebuilding campaign.
"None whatsoever. None whatsoever," he said. "Kevin, Randy (and I) decided to pick up Ty’s option last year, we’ll stand by that. He’s a good man. He’s a good coach. As you guys know, our team stayed together, stayed together under three-plus years of volatile change. Frankly, Ty gets credit for that."
Lindsey wouldn't delve into whether Corbin had front-office personnel come to his defense, adding that it was "a collective decision" to move on.
Corbin didn't release a statement, but Lindsey said he was "disappointed" but handled the news as well as could be expected and was "first class, completely professional" after being told he'd no longer be employed by the Jazz since working in Utah for a decade.
"He wished us the best and we wished him the best," Lindsey said. "He’s Jazz fiber through and through. Just want you would think, he’s a gentleman in every way."
He's just no longer the Jazz coach.
A career change that came 20 years earlier than some would have preferred.
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