SALT LAKE CITY — This may seem a strange time to discuss changing Jazz coaches, but since Tyrone Corbin is among the lucky ones, it’s fair to ask: Why is he still standing?
Right now NBA teams are firing anyone with a clipboard. Seventeen coaching changes have been made since the start of last season, in some cases twice. Yet Corbin, who has yet to win a playoff game, remains.
His best move at this point is probably to blend into the scenery. That’s hard to do when NBA Coach of the Year George Karl is gone from Denver. Lionel Hollins, who coached Memphis to the conference finals, is history, too.
By missing the playoffs, Corbin was already under pressure, but the league-wide rash of firings is proof the Jazz can’t wait long for measurable success. Not merely the kind of success where you beat Miami and San Antonio in the regular season, either.
The Jazz need to get back to making the playoffs every year. If that opportunity is missed in 2013-14, fans can add Corbin to the list of dearly departed. It’s not as though it would be irrational or heartless if the Jazz fired the likable Corbin next year. It would be right on schedule, considering how the league is trending. He had a worse record than five of the coaches who were fired this postseason.
These days nobody is entirely safe — unless his name is Erik Spoelstra or Gregg Popovich. Aside from the Miami and San Antonio coaches, just three others have been at the same job since 2008.
Face it, coaches are becoming as replaceable as (expensive) gym socks. It’s hard to fathom Jerry Sloan coached the Jazz for 23 seasons, longer than any current coach. (Popovich, the longest tenured current NBA coach, has been leading San Antonio for 16.)
This week, the Nuggets fired Karl, No. 6 on the all-time wins list. It was Denver’s best regular season ever. But a first-round loss to Golden State sealed his fate. It’s not as though he didn’t have a nice run; he was there nine seasons. That's a lifetime by normal NBA standards.
Still, is Denver a good enough franchise to fire the Coach of the Year?
It certainly thinks so.
On Monday the Grizzlies announced they wouldn’t keep Hollins, who led them to their best season. They won 56 games and made the conference finals for the first time.
According to reports, Hollins was talking with other teams and allegedly had issues with the ownership, some of the players and even V.P. of Basketball Operations John Hollinger. The same John Hollinger who used to be a writer/stats guru at ESPN.com.
Wow, tough crowd.
Now writers are in on this, too?
At least Hollins has company in the righteous indignation department. Six of the 12 coaches who have been fired or resigned this postseason led their teams to the playoffs. Brooklyn, Phoenix and Milwaukee fired coached during the season, hired interims, and fired them, too.
It’s enough to make new Suns’ coach Jeff Hornacek wonder if he should unpack his bags. Wait, he’s already unpacked, since his family lived there in the first place.
This raises a thorny question: Who gets the parking space in things such as this? Do the Suns just use a generic sign that says “Reserved for Phoenix Suns Coach,” or do they have to keep repainting it?
As for Corbin, he deserves another year and he’ll get it — or at least part of it. He still has limited experience. Only three of the released coaches this off-season had coached fewer games than Corbin (176): Milwaukee’s Jim Boylan (106), Charlotte’s Mike Dunlap (82) and Phoenix’s Lindsey Hunter (41) — and all had worse records than Corbin.
Thus, Corbin shouldn’t worry about what’s happening around him right now, even as his colleagues vanish. He’s good for a few months. But only a few. Then the cycle will begin again. He’ll go into next season knowing if he fails, when pink-slip time comes around, he’ll be at the front of his class.
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