Posted by: Andy Larsen on January 14th, 2012The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
At the end of last year, there was reason to worry about Tyrone Corbin’s coaching of the Utah Jazz. For one, the team wasn’t at all successful, and underplayed its talent level significantly. Why is that? Well, the team had seemingly forgotten the Utah Jazz way: from a scouting perspective, it was clear that the team was no longer running sets all the way through, but rather stopping one or two steps through the play. That is, if a play was ran at all. Devin Harris initially expressed optimism that he could run all of the plays in Utah, saying that he knew the system from years as an opponent, but that was clearly not the case. There is statistical evidence for this assertion as well: both assists (a hallmark of a successful Jazz offense) and offensive efficiency were down once Jerry Sloan left the team.
At the beginning of this year, it looked like more of the same. The first game of the season against LAL, in particular, showed a real lack of commitment to the offensive system. This was especially disappointing given the glowing words that had come out of what seemed like a very successful training camp.
It looked like the Jerry Sloan magic was gone. While Sloan was often described as a defensive coach by national and local pundits alike, this simply was wrong. (Pet theory: it’s because he was an old grizzled veteran coach, and when we think about defense, we think of old grizzled veteran coaches telling players to play defense. Unfortunately, this isn’t always correct.) Sloan’s hallmark was his offense: 2 of the top 5 most efficient offensive teams in the history of the league were the 97-98 Jazz teams. He even took the 2007-2008 Jazz to the #1 rating by some offensive efficiency measures. On the other hand, his most successful defensive team was the one in the year in which he took over, anchored by Mark Eaton. As Sloan placed more and more of his stamp on the team, offensive execution, not defensive prowess, was the result.
Impressively, though, the Jazz have rebounded early in the season and have shown fairly remarkable commitment to the system as the season has progressed. The first really impressive game in this respect, to me at least, was the big away loss to San Antonio. While the Jazz lost by a large margin, we were actually running the plays quite well, something both I and David Locke noticed at the time. We simply were missing the shots. I worried that this might be a permanent condition; while the shots were open, perhaps the team lacked enough talent to make all of the ones that they should. Yet, this winning stretch of games has shown that not to be the case. The Jazz do indeed have the players to do well, against at least low-to-mid grade opposition.
This is due largely to the coaching of Ty Corbin. He has managed to reinstate the majority of Sloan’s offense to impressive success. The team is getting the open shots that it was in years past. Additionally, it appears that he has improved the defensive scheming somewhat (forcing baseline rather than middle the clear example) , and there have been results. The defensive efficiency of this team has improved compared to last year’s struggles. The end sum is surprising, winning basketball from a team which wasn’t expected to do much.
Let’s be clear; by no means do I think Corbin’s coaching is perfect. In particular, his reliance on Raja Bell probably hurts the team on the floor, as well as hindering the development of our younger wing players.
Nevertheless, his coaching has made major, major strides, and the results have shown on the floor and in the standings. A great deal of the credit for the Jazz’ recent success needs to go to Ty Corbin.
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