SALT LAKE CITY — The man with the Jazz’s future in his hands seldom wears a tie. But Larry H. Miller he’s not. Dennis Lindsey is actually like no one the organization has had.
He said on Monday the search for a new coach will include seeking formal permission to speak with assistants from other teams.
“This won’t be the Wild, Wild West,” he said.
Maybe not, but in other ways, it sure looks like the O.K. Corral. There’s virtually nobody left standing from the old gang. Lindsey cut another tie to the historical Jazz by firing Tyrone Corbin after 3½ seasons. A third non-playoff year in four years ended the debate.
While Corbin had coaching critics, much of it involved perception. Even if management felt he could turn things around, the ticket-buying public probably disagreed.
So the Jazz made their move. Hire a new coach and they can start working on their advertising slogan for 2014-15. How about this: Hope and change.
Never mind. Taken.
Or this: “To infinity and beyond!”
A little grandiose?
Perhaps a no-frills approach: “We have a new coach.”
Corbin was the last major player/coach tie to Jerry Sloan’s Jazz. Owners Gail, Steve and Greg Miller and president Randy Rigby are still in management capacities, and were there when Larry was alive. But they aren’t heavily involved in draft picks, contracts and trades.
Others, such as strength and conditioning coach Mark McKown, personnel director Dave Fredman and operations boss Richard Smith remain, too. But Corbin was the last TV-ready representation of the team formerly known as Jazz. He was an assistant for seven years under Sloan and played for him, too.
No one is left from the Jazz’s 2010 team that made the Western Conference finals. Sloan is an adviser, but has limited his role. Kevin O’Connor, charged with rebuilding after Karl Malone and John Stockton, is semi-retired and doesn’t live in Utah anymore.
Malone’s work as a big-man coach has been limited to a few sessions in Louisiana.
That leaves Lindsey — the gentlemanly general who does his press conferences in a button-down, open collar dress shirt — as the point man.
“We’re not going to limit ourselves prematurely by defining any of the people or objectives we’re looking for, or criteria,” Lindsey said of the search.
While he wouldn’t hint at potential coaches, here is one it won’t be: Stockton. Someday, maybe, but not this time around. He still has two kids at home in Spokane, where he has been since retirement. His staus won't change right away.
Sloan is permanently retired, despite a few mentions with other teams, early after his resignation. Jeff Hornacek has a better team — and a permanent home — in Phoenix.
Assistant coach Alex Jensen is expected to be a fine head coach, one day, but has only college and developmental league experience. Larry Krystkowiak, a former NBA coach, just signed a five-year deal with the Utes.
There are numerous former head coaches and current assistant coaches that interest the Jazz. You’d think San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich would have run out of trainees. Nope. Ex-Ute coach Jim Boylen’s name has been discussed locally and nationally, since he worked with Lindsey in Houston.
In any case, it’s all Lindsey’s production, though he begs to differ, saying it’s “a group effort.” But every group this side of a flash mob has to have a lead, doesn’t it?
It was Lindsey who decided not to re-sign the team’s two best players, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap; he who drove the shift to an all-kids, all-the-time core. Lindsey's imprint was obvious in the deal that brought Trey Burke.
“I appreciate you trying to pin me down,” Lindsey said when asked whether his opinion weighs more than anyone else’s in the organization. “I think Greg Miller’s opinion means more, then I’d put Gail and Steve next I’m a ways down the pecking order.”
More accurately he’s first, then everyone else signs off.
“All decisions, especially the monumental ones, are done collectively as a team — and frankly that’s what I believe in,” Lindsey said.
Here’s something else he believes in: not sitting around.
Your father’s unchanging Jazz, this isn’t.
In the end, it will be Lindsey’s hire. He’ll find a coach, draft a lottery pick and make some free agent moves this summer. And — group decision or not — he’ll bear the blame if the Jazz never get off the ground.
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