SALT LAKE CITY — For the second offseason in a row, the Utah Jazz have seen a key figure from their past take a significant position with another NBA organization.
Last summer, it was Scott Layden who headed to San Antonio, leaving Tyrone Corbin's coaching staff to become the Spurs' assistant general manager.
On Tuesday, Jeff Hornacek was introduced as the Phoenix Suns' new head coach, leaving Corbin's crew undermanned yet again.
They'll miss Hornacek, of course. He was likeable, an asset to the coaching staff, a valuable mentor to the team's younger players and an integral part of Utah's success as a player and a coach.
"Ty and Jeff are close," Lindsey said. "He's highly valued."
But in a way, the Jazz view his departure as a good sign.
"The organization is really happy for the success of others," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. "The fact that Jeff gets this type of validation where another program thinks he's talented enough to be in charge from a head-coaching position, one, we believe that as well.
"And, two, it's a great validation for the (Jazz) program that others have gone on from here and done well. As a teammate of Jeff's, we collectively feel happy for him."
Hours after Hornacek was introduced in Phoenix on Tuesday, Corbin addressed hs assistant's departure in a statement released by the Jazz's PR staff.
“On behalf of the Jazz, I want to thank Jeff for his hard work, loyalty and dedication,” Corbin said. “Whether it be as teammates, working together under Jerry Sloan, or as part of my key staff, Jeff is a good friend and I am sorry to see him go. We all wish Jeff and his family nothing but the very best as he takes this next step in his career."
Hornacek was the longest-tenured coach under Corbin, having joined him as a full-time assistant in the aftermath of Sloan's midseason resignation in 2011. Prior to that, Hornacek had been a part-time shooting coach since 2007. He played for the Jazz from 1994-2000, helping Utah make two NBA Finals appearances.
"We are excited for him to have this opportunity," Corbin added, "and confident that he is going to be an excellent coach in the league.”
Even with the two assistants leaving in the past eight months, Lindsey believes the Jazz's "continuity" — from the Miller family to president Randy Rigby, executive vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor to Corbin — is an asset that will attract top-tier coaching candidates to fill the vacancy.
"We have stability on our side and it's a real good enviroment from a basketball operation standpoint," Lindsey said. "I think there will be a long list of talented candidates by the end of the day."
Lindsey wouldn't comment when asked if the Jazz plan on hiring more than one assistant, a move that was hinted about last offseason after Layden departed and Sanders was promoted. Utah currently has two full-time assistant coaches on its bench — lead assistant Sidney Lowe and Michael Sanders — along with two player development coaches in Brad Jones and Johnnie Bryant.
"We're trying to keep the stable of coaching talent strong. I think we're doing that," Lindsey said. "I think Ty is very adept at identifying what he needs. I'm fully confident we'll use this as an opportunity."
Lindsey said the Jazz don't have a timetable for bringing a new coach in, either. It's more important, he added, that Corbin hires "the right guy" to complement the current staff.
Hornacek becomes the ninth former Jazz player to become an NBA head coach. That list also includes Corbin, New Orleans-era Jazzman Rick Adelman (multiple teams, Minnesota currently), Allan Bristow (Charlotte, 1991-96), Marc Iavaroni (Memphis, 2007-09), Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak (Milwaukee, 2007-08), Kenny Natt (Sacramento, 2008-09), Mark Jackson (Golden State, current) and Jacque Vaughn (Orlando, current).
Fellow former Jazzman Adrian Dantley was acting head coach for the Nuggets for a short time while George Karl battled cancer in 2010.
Lindsey, who was with the Spurs as an assistant general manager prior to being hired in Utah last August, likes the Jazz's chances of adding another capable basketball mind to its organization.
"Like the Spurs have tried to emulate Coach Sloan and (the Laydens') program in the past, I think we can take a page from their book that if you help people achieve their goals then the next man up is usually a very talented, motivated, qualifed individual," Lindsey said.
"I think the coaching community recognizes the stability that's here," he added. "As Ty goes through the process of identifying the next set of candidates, there's a good pool to choose from."
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