April 24, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz assistant coach and former player Jeff Hornacek prior to a game against the Phoenix Suns at Energy Solutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Quest for Hornacek

We’ve all heard the old basketball saying that you don’t want to be the coach that replaces a legend, you want to be the coach that replaces the coach who replaced a legend. This is the situation I believe the Utah Jazz find themselves facing right now. Ty Corbin had been an assistant coach for the Jazz for 7 years when Jerry Sloan announced he was stepping down as head coach. Instead of naming him Interim Coach and looking around the league to see who was available (Rick Adelman), the Jazz rewarded Corbin for his loyalty and named him Head Coach. They retained him as head coach for the past 2 seasons and were excited to see what he could do with a full training camp and full 82 games season. The results have been mediocre at best. The Jazz hovered around .500 for most of the season until their record got a shot in the arm during the softest part of their schedule. This bit of fool’s gold was enough for management to hold off the youth movement and they decided to stand pat at the trade deadline and see what this team could do in their playoff run. As we have seen since then, the Jazz have gone 3-10 and are right back to .500 and after tonight’s most likely loss to the Spurs, they’ll be below .500 once again. Plenty of excuses and praise were given to Ty Corbin for the job he did his first 1 1/2 seasons on the job. This year however he has not been able to get a veteran lead team, expected to compete for the 4th seed when the season began, to stay competitive during the most critical part of their season. No a coach cannot control the energy level of his players, but he can put forth the best game plan possible in order for his team to succeed. For the most part Coach Corbin has not done this.

This team has many flaws. Most of the veterans on the team are one dimensional and not good enough to be the alpha males on playoff contending teams. They would be great 2nd or 3rd options on many teams in this league that have a top dog already. Coach Corbin can only work with what he has but things just haven’t felt right. Especially during this disastrous 13 game stretch. Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune has done a great job on Twitter, posting quotes from players about their frustration with this streak and with Coach Corbin. When asking Paul Millsap after one of these losses about Coach Corbin’s post game message to the team, he quoted Millsap as saying “Did you ask him? It was his message.” Ouch! When he told Al Jefferson that Corbin questioned the starters effort he quoted Big Al as saying “He got his own opinion. Everybody got their own opinion.” This is their head coach they’re talking about! I think it’s obvious that Corbin has lost the team. This offseason would be the perfect time to make a change since the team is planning on going young anyway. If they fire him after next year he would just look like a scapegoat. This year it would just be apart of Dennis Lindsey putting his stamp on the team. This is why Jeff Hornacek should be their man.

Much ado was made about the fact that Ty had played for all these great coaches and he was going to incorporate what he learned from them with what the Jazz have always done. My question would be, did Ty really learn how to run offenses from them? Ty Corbin was not a point guard. He wasn’t even a point forward. Ty Corbin was a hustle player, a garbage man. His job as a player was to hustle, get rebounds, score his points off of putbacks, and play good solid defense. He was never asked to run an offense let alone have plays called for him. He needed to know how to do his job and that’s it. Jeff Hornacek the player is a completely different story. He played for at least two of the same coaches that Ty did in Cotton Fitzsimmons and Jerry Sloan. He was a 2 that could bring the ball down the court and get the team into it’s offense. He could pass the ball, cut to the hoop, shoot the 3 and be a playmaker. He had to have an understanding of where everyone on the court was in order to make plays. Maybe not to quite the same extent as a point guard but close. It’s no coincidence that when the Jazz traded for him at the trade deadline in 1994 is when their offense really started to click. John and Karl had another guy who understood the offense as well as they did and he could make plays with or without the ball in his hands.

As a coach Jeff Hornacek would bring stability to the Jazz offense because he knows how to run one from his playing days. He would give them an identity and the players would know what to expect. Defense is all about effort and once the Jazz get rid of their defensive midgets, this should improve. What will help the Jazz to be taken seriously in the league again though is an offense that is executed to the standards of the Utah Jazz organization. He would bring the pick in roll back to where it was made famous and actually incorporate the 3 point shot and the other things he learned from the non-Jerry Sloan coaches he played for. He has both Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward that can be used as he was as a player and he has young bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter that can still be taught how to pass a basketball. The team still needs a point guard but you can bet the farm that Dennis Lindsey will draft at least one in June. I also think Hornacek’s ability to be a head coach is more respected around the league as proven by the number of interviews he’s had with teams over the last couple of years. The Jazz cannot afford to lose him and need to promote him quickly. Ty Corbin is over his head as a head coach and needs to become an assistant coach again for some team in this league. Let’s completely clean the slate and let Jeff Hornacek and the young guys show what they can do.


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