Speculation begins about who the next Utah Jazz coach will be
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — With the announcement Monday afternoon that Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin’s contract would not be renewed, speculation about who would be his replacement immediately began.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey gave no indication of who the new coach may be or what the timetable would be for naming him. He also claimed that no thought had been given to the possibility before Monday’s announcement.
“We literally have not spent one minute on that,’’ Lindsey said. “We have not had one conversation in regards to other names or the criteria.
"Now that the decision’s closed, we’ll meet quickly and set some criteria. We’ll look at some objective measures, some subjective measures about coaches and who’s going to be the new leader for the Utah Jazz, and define some timelines relative to how we’re going to interview.’’
Lindsey said he was confident “with our experience and networking contacts’’ that the Jazz's management would be able to make a good decision, although he wouldn’t say when.
“If we can find the right person in short order, we’ll work very hard to do so,’’ he said. “We’re going to be really thorough in this process because it’s such a monumental decision. The only thing we told the Millers was however long it takes to get the best man in the seat.’’
Lindsey listed several characteristics a new coach should have, including “personal character, work ethic, a competitive DNA, strategic coaching acumen, and ability to think on one’s feet.’’
He also said, “We want the full platter in front of us and don’t want to define the search in any way. We want to take a step back and look at some internal criteria. Certainly it would be perfect if we found the right person in a short time frame. We need to find the right person first.’’
There are several directions the Jazz could go in their search for a head coach.
In each of the previous head coaching changes — only three in 33 years — the new coach came from within the Jazz organization. In 1981, general manager Frank Layden replaced Tom Nissalke. In 1988, assistant coach Jerry Sloan took over for Layden. And in 2011, Corbin was promoted to replace Sloan.
If the Jazz were to follow that pattern, the most likely candidate would be Brad Jones, a current assistant and former head coach for the Jazz’s D-League team, the Utah Flash, from 2007-10. Jones also coached the Austin Toros in 2010-12.
A longshot candidate would be Alex Jensen, the former University of Utah player who joined the Jazz this year as a player development coach. The 38-year-old Jensen was successful as a coach with Canton in the D-League, where he was named Coach of the Year in 2012-13.
An even longer longshot would be Sloan, who coached the Jazz for 25 years before resigning in February 2011. Don’t laugh — Sloan was interested in both the Charlotte and Orlando job openings in 2012. Sloan has attended most practices and home games this year, working as a “consultant” for the Jazz, but they aren't likely to hire a 72-year-old for the young Jazz team.
The Jazz could also look at former coaches, who have had success in the league. Two veteran coaches who were let go last year despite strong seasons were George Karl and Lionel Hollins.
Karl coached for 25 years and was named Coach of the Year after leading Denver to a 57-25 record. Hollins coached the Memphis Grizzlies to a 56-26 record last year and to the Western Conference finals before being fired after an apparent disagreement with management.
Other ex-coaches who could get a look are the Van Gundy brothers, Jeff and Stan, who each coached two different teams with varying levels of success.
There are several NBA assistant coaches that could be considered for the job, including a few with solid connections to Lindsey.
Current Phoenix assistant Mike Longabardi is an intriguing possibility because he worked in Houston when Lindsey was there and is known as a “defensive guru.’’ Lindsey has stressed the importance of defense and when Jeff Hornacek chose Longabardi as an assistant, he said, “He knows both sides of the game, but I think his defensive knowledge and what he did with Boston (is important). It's very helpful to have a guy who kind of specializes.’’
Longabardi spent six years with Boston after being in Houston for four years.
Former University of Utah coach Jim Boylen has a strong NBA resume with 17 seasons as an assistant coach for five different teams, including this year as Gregg Popovich’s top assistant in San Antonio. He also worked with Lindsey in Houston for seven years from 1996 to 2003, so the two know each other well. But the negativity surrounding his departure from Utah may work against him.
Another assistant with ties to Lindsay is Andy Greer, who is a current assistant at Chicago under Tom Thibodeau, who is also known for his defense. Greer has been an assistant for four different NBA teams and was at Houston when Lindsey was with the Rockets.
The Jazz could also look to the college ranks for their coach. Who would ever have guessed that Brad Stevens would leave Butler last year to become the head coach for the Boston Celtics?
While coaches such as Kentucky’s John Calipari and Louisville’s Rick Pitino would be unlikely to want to coach for Utah, the Jazz could look at a young coach such as Fred Hoiberg, a former NBA player who has compiled a 90-57 record in four years at Iowa State.
Then there’s Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak, who had a brief stint as the Milwaukee Bucks’ head coach in 2006-08. He also coached as an assistant for the New Jersey Nets in 2010-11 before becoming the Utes’ coach. Krystkowiak recently signed an extension to his contract at the U. and seems unlikely to go back to the NBA.
If the Jazz wanted to be a trendsetter, they could hire successful European League coach Ettore Messina, who is currently the head coach for CSKA Moscow. He worked for one year as a consultant for the L.A. Lakers in 2012-13, but otherwise has coached in Europe for two decades, where he has won four European championships. The Italian was considered for the Atlanta Hawks’ opening last year.
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