The Jazz’s version of the Titanic finally slipped under the waves, but not before they booted the captain into the water. Tyrone Corbin was fired, but probably not even Phil Jackson himself — or Sir Sloan — could’ve averted this accident.
The 2013-14 season: WHAT ... WAS ... THAT?
An epic disaster, that’s what.
Where have you gone, Karl Malone, Jazz Nation turns its lonely eyes to you
Let’s hope Larry H. Miller hasn’t heard about this.
For only the second time in three decades, the Jazz fired a coach rather than let him slip into the front office (Frank Layden) or quit (Jerry Sloan) of their own volition. No one could argue against it, but no one liked it, Corbin being a well-liked man and everyone agreeing that he was dealt a bad hand. The Jazz pride themselves on loyalty, but they let go of a coach who has been with them for 10 years and quietly accepted a role that set him up for failure.
Maybe they should have fired everyone.
The Jazz have never really been the same since the fateful night in February 2011 when Sloan quit after a spat with Deron Williams, the guard who was to lead the next generation of Jazz teams. A short while later Williams was gone and the Jazz have been scrambling ever since, with new coaches, new players, a new general manager, and an altered plan for the future. Maybe the altered future predates the Sloan-Williams dust-up back to the passing of Miller.
So here they are in 2014, starting over again. The Jazz have gambled their future by betting on a core of young players — Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Trey Burke — but so far they have shown few signs that they can pull it off.
On paper they look the part. They are all high-round draft picks — Hayward No. 9 in 2010, Kanter No. 3 in 2011, Burks No. 12 in 2011, Burke No. 9 in 2013 (by Minnesota), Favors No. 3 in 2010 (by Brooklyn). But it hasn’t translated to success on the court.
In pro basketball, a player’s probability of success is fairly easy to read within a season or two. John Stockton didn’t start as a rookie, but by the end of the season, if not earlier, the Jazz knew they had something. Karl Malone’s stardom was immediately apparent. That’s the way it usually works.
But what optimism can the Jazz muster after what they just witnessed? They have come full circle, back to where they were when they arrived in Utah from New Orleans 35 years ago. They finished with 25 wins and 57 losses — their worst season since their first year in Utah (24-58) in 1979-80 and just two losses shy of their worst season ever — the year they were born, in 1974.
The Jazz started the 2013-14 campaign by losing 12 of their first 14 games. They finished by losing 20 of 24. Somewhere in the middle they played close to .500, but that was largely forgotten after that anticlimactic finish. There’s no good way to spin this.
Four of the five core players have been around three to four seasons. Sure, with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson around last season, this was the first season that the go-to responsibilities and big-time minutes were thrust upon them. But shouldn’t they have shown something more promising than this season’s performance?
It only adds salt to the wound to see so many former Jazz players in the playoffs while the Jazz sit home and watch. Jefferson leads Charlotte in scoring (21.9) and rebounding (10.8) and was twice named Eastern Conference Player of the Month. Millsap is averaging 17.9 points and 8.5 rebounds for Atlanta.
Then there are players who were with the team within the last few years and are now in the playoffs — Kyle Korver is thriving with Atlanta and Wes Matthews with Portland.
And this is especially relevant given the recent turn of events: Jeff Hornacek. The former star player for the Jazz, who was a former assistant to Corbin, finished second in the Coach of the Year voting after leading the Phoenix Suns this past year.
Any way you cut it, nothing worked out for the Jazz this season.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: [email protected]