As soon as the news broke that the Utah Jazz did not renew the contract of former coach Tyrone Corbin, names of potential new coaches have flown all across Salt Lake City. The Jazz will now go through something they’ve never truly experienced as a franchise – a full fledged coaching search.
While most people are trying to focus on the who of this coaching search – specific names, etc. – we should also look at the what of the coaching search. Rather, what kind of coach would best fit the needs the Jazz face right now?
With Corbin gone, he took his offensive scheme (a variation of the flex offense Jerry Sloan ran), defensive philosophies Utah finished dead last in defensive efficiency in the NBA) and assistant coaches.
What this means is that the Jazz are more than likely going to be making drastic changes to the way basketball is played in Salt Lake City. For 23 years, Sloan ran an offense of hard cuts, screens, and inside-out play. Corbin kept a version of that, but his offense favored a larger spread of the court and was tailored to specific players he had, like Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. So now, general manager Dennis Lindsey and other front office members have a big decision to make. Not only do they have to decide on a new offensive system, but a defensive scheme as well.
When a new coach is hired, his offensive and defensive schemes will be hired along with him. A coach’s specific philosophies are a huge part of whether or not he gets hired. Consider what happened when the Los Angeles Lakers hired Phil Jackson. The Lakers had seen the success Jackson had with his triangle offense in Chicago, and that was a large part of why they hired him.
Utah needs to place similar emphasis on their next coach, in terms of offense. The Jazz have a bunch of great pieces to build around, and they need a coach who can use the players’ talents to the best of their abilities. Really, this coaching search boils down to three things the Jazz need to look for in a new coach.
1. Offensive Philosophy
Derrick Favors had a terrific season, showing that he’s a solid option as a defensive anchor, and how much of a difference he makes on the offensive end of the ball. Enes Kanter put up some very impressive numbers as well. The last four games of the season he played in (he sat out the season finale against the Minnesota Timberwolves) he grabbed at least 12 rebounds, and had 19 in a loss against the Dallas Mavericks on April 8th. Gordon Hayward had a decent year as well, the biggest knock against his game being that his shooting percentages dipped.
Rookie Trey Burke will also be a huge part of the future of the Jazz. His ability to see the floor, set up his teammates, and knock down big shots will make him an integral part of any offense going forward. His running mate, Alec Burks, also had a tremendous year that showcased his wealth of offensive talents.
An offense that would best suit Utah moving forward is something along the lines of what the Memphis Grizzlies run. With Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph manning the middle and Mike Conley and Tayshaun Prince on the outside, the still-blossoming Jazz bear striking resemblance to the established Memphis team. Whoever the new coach is will have to already have an established system into which Favors, Kanter, Hayward, Burke and Burks can fit.
2. Defensive Philosophy
Defense is incredibly important in today’s NBA and it takes a very good coach to get a team of players to buy into one solid defensive scheme. The coach also needs to have iron-fast rules regarding defense. Last season, the Jazz defended the pick and roll a variety of different ways, with hardly any continuity to their approaches at stopping the deadly play. This is just one example of many ways that Corbin’s defensive philosophy wasn’t that great.
The next Jazz coach needs to have some sort of reputation for great defensive teams. The only exception to this would be if Utah hired some who ran a Mike D’Antoni style of basketball – shoot the ball in less than seven seconds. Or even someone who followed the Mark Jackson school of thought with the Warriors these past two seasons would be a great fit with the Jazz.
Regardless, a solid defensive mind will be a huge asset to a young team like Utah. Keep in mind that a lot of coaches usually bring their own assistants with them, which means that whomever the Jazz hire will likely have a few guys in tow, and one just might be a defensive genius.
3. Hiring A “Jazzman”
The Jazz are a unique franchise – only four coaches have sat on the pine since the team moved here for the 1979-80 season. Larry H. Miller leveraged everything he had, and then some, to keep the team in Utah. The Miller family now runs the team, and do their best to keep the Jazz as a community gift. Because of how heavily invested in the community the Jazz is as a franchise, choosing the right people to represent the team is always important.
Utah has always drafted certain types of players who exemplify the values the organization holds dear. That tradition has continued to the front office and coaching staff as well. Kevin O’Connor, Frank Layden, Sloan, Randy Rigby, and Ty Corbin all were great people in addition to being good basketball people to have around. The next hire for the Jazz should be someone who not necessarily fits into this mold, but rather is a good person both in terms of basketball and off-the-court activities.
Going through a coaching search is something Utah hasn’t experienced in a while, but this year’s off-season promises to bring plenty of excitement with it.