As the Jazz continue to search for their next head coach, it's time to do what just about everyone does while waiting for a big-time hire:
Play general manager.
The Jazz organization is reportedly talking to 20-plus coaching candidates, so we asked Jay Yeomans, David Smith, Lafe Peavler, Chris VanCampen, Mitch Kunzler and Carter Williams who they would pick as the new head coach for the Jazz. Here's who each of them chose:
The Indiana Pacers assistant has just about every angle covered when it comes to experience in the NBA. He played 12 years in the league for the Seattle SuperSonics, so he knows exactly what the game is like from a player's perspective. He has 12 years experience as a head coach with the SuperSonics and the Portland Trail Blazers and has a winning record (478-452)
He would be a great fit for the Jazz because he has tons of experience, coached a young team that was built through the draft and helped it find success, and he knows what it's like to be a player, so he can relate on that level to the up-and-coming players on the Utah roster.
— Jay Yeomans
The more one learns about Adrian Griffin, the more sense he makes to be the next Utah Jazz head coach.
Griffin fits the Jazz mold, as he worked hard and battled odds to carve out a solid NBA career, earning a master’s degree along the way (he is currently pursuing a doctorate in leadership studies). A defensive-minded player, Griffin jumped right into the coaching ranks at his retirement, serving with Scott Skiles and Tom Thibodeau.
Griffin is an up-and-coming prospect on many coaching lists. He would help instill a defensive mindset, provide leadership and at 39, could grow with the young Utah roster.
— David Smith
Yes, Earl Watson has zero coaching experience in the NBA. In fact, Watson's career as a player may not be over just yet. That said, there's a lot to like about Watson as a coaching prospect.
First off, he has the respect of key players in Utah. Chris Haynes of Comcast Sportsnet reported that Gordon Hayward said, "I’m definitely pulling for Earl to get the job. He’s a great guy and has a great basketball mind. If he did become our coach and I got to play under him, it would be great because I know how hard he’ll work and prepare us. He’s a true professional and I think no matter where he ends up, he’ll be a great head coach in the NBA."
High praise indeed.
Second, Watson reportedly has respect within the Jazz organization. According to Haynes' article, "He is viewed by numerous NBA executives as one of the few current players capable of making a smooth transition into the NBA coaching profession shortly following retirement." Haynes also noted that Watson "immediately became an organization and fan favorite" during Watson's three-season stay in Salt Lake City.
Third, the NBA is very much a copy-cat league. If Jason Kidd can jump right from being a player to a head coach for the Nets and take his team to the playoffs in his first season, why can't Watson?
— Lafe Peavler
The Jazz need someone who can mold and develop youthful talent, and Hoiberg is that guy. A 10-year NBA veteran, he also spent four years in the front office at Minnesota, working his way up to vice president of basketball operations when the head coaching position at Iowa State, his alma mater, came open. A master of player development and helping wayward young players get back on track (see "Royce White"), Hoiberg led the Cyclones to their first top-10 ranking since the 2001 season, along with an appearance in the Elite Eight. With a reputation for being extremely positive with his players, as well as possessing a calm and assured sideline demeanor, Hoiberg might just be that long-term solution the Jazz are looking for.
— Chris VanCampen
This won't be a popular choice among die-hard Jazz fans, but Mark Jackson is the best coaching option there is for Utah.
Jackson's record as head coach improved every year, including over 50 wins just this last year. His style of offense has really drawn in and ignited a former dormant fan base. People would tune in from all over the country to watch the Golden State Warriors because they were that fun to watch. The same could happen in Utah, where the fan base is always ignited, regardless of success.
Along with Jackson's coaching record, his players have really blossomed under his leadership. All-Star point guard Stephen Curry went from averaging 14.7 points and 5.3 assists per game during Jackson's first year as coach to 24 points and 8.5 assists per game this past season.
Trey Burke was known in college for his ability to shoot 3-pointers and find open teammates, and those happen to be the two strengths that became dominant weapons in Curry's game under Jackson. Not to mention that Burke averaged more assists as a rookie last year than Curry did in Jackson's first year as coach. The sky is the limit for Burke alongside Jackson.
Similarities between current Jazz and Warriors players can be made time and time again (Curry and Burke, David Lee and Derrick Favors, Klay Thompson and Gordon Hayward, etc.), and it's easy to see how the Jazz could thrive under Jackson's system and style.
The only issue it seems is the negative history that the Jazz apparently have with Jackson. It's true that many accuse him of being the main reason that John Stockton retired. That combined with some of the comments that Jackson has made about the Jazz has made him a very disliked person among the Utah fan base. If Jackson took the reins of the franchise and led the Jazz back to the team's former success, would that change anything? Maybe, maybe not.
Jackson's track record as coach is outstanding. His team record has improved every year, and so have the individual players he has coached. If the Utah Jazz organization and its fans can forgive Jackson for past deeds and give him an opportunity to coach, it may pay off in the form of making the playoffs in the years to come.
— Mitch Kunzler
Messina, dubbed the Phil Jackson of international basketball by many, would be a win for the Jazz. He has multiple Euro championships and has NBA experience as a consultant with the Lakers. Messina’s style has been described as “post-friendly,” which is great for a team like Utah, which has young, developing centers Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in the arsenal. Utah is also more likely to snag a forward with the fifth pick of the upcoming draft, unless the Jazz can trade up for a smaller forward or guard — or one slides to them. More importantly, Messina runs an offense slightly similar to an offense the Jazz ran in their glory days, and he has experience leading teams to winning seasons.
— Carter Williams