Posted by: Spencer D. on February 28th, 2012The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
I’m writing this literally two minutes after what should be known as the Shambles in Sacramento. And I don’t really have much to say that hasn’t already been said about the Jazz’s most glaring struggles: missed free throws, giving up 3 or 4 offensive rebounds in a row, the usual. But I blame the Shambles in Sacramento on one man – Ty Corbin.
Now, a lot of people are going to yell and scream at me about how I’m being judgmental, about how Corbin’s a rookie too, and this team is all learning together. Well, that’s fine. But that’s not my opinion. My opinion is that his coaching cost the Jazz a win that they desperately needed.
Now, let me start off by comparing some stats from Corbin’s foray into coaching, and that of Jerry Sloan’s first time as a coach here in Utah. I know it’s unfair to Corbin to compare his numbers to Sloan’s, especially since Sloan was head coach in Chicago before coming here in 1988 as an assistant. He didn’t take over until 1989 after Frank Layden retired. However, Corbin spent 7 years as an assistant coach under one of the absolute greatest coaches ever in the history of basketball. If Corbin couldn’t learn anything as a coach from Sloan, and Phil Johnson for that matter who was coach of the year in 1976, then it was Corbin’s own fault.
In Sloan’s first season with the Jazz, he coached 65 games. His record – an impressive 40-25. Sloan won 62% of his games as head coach that year. He also led the Jazz to their first-ever Midwest Division title. And of course, the rest of his storied career is history.
Corbin inherited a Jazz team in ruins, shocked by change that hadn’t occurred in 23 years, although around the league more than 200 head coaching changes had happened since Sloan took over the Jazz in 1989. I think we as fans gave him a write off for that season, not really expecting anything out of it. And as fans, we would have to have been delusional to think anything could have come out of a season so discombobulated as the 2010-11 campaign was.
Corbin finished that year with a dismal 8-20 record. He’s followed it up with 15-18 this year, certainly an improvement, but when you consider that he has coached 61 games to Sloan’s 65 in his first year as Jazz head coach, the record Corbin shows makes me stop and think for a minute.
Now, Corbin isn’t Sloan. No one will ever be that kind of a coach; he was truly a unique individual. But as I’ve already stated, he spent 7 years as an assistant – he sat through all the coach’s meetings, was there during the Western Conference Finals in 2007, one of the best coaching displays in recent memory when Sundiata Gaines hit this shot, and every regular season game in between in which Sloan proved his mettle and earned his enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. (His speech was the best speech I’ve ever heard in my life. Watch it here.) Corbin should have picked up some tools of the trade, some bits of knowledge from the coach who would wear John Deere tractor hats to practice. But it seems to me like he didn’t learn a single thing.
Now, I didn’t watch any of the game last week against Minnesota except for Luke Ridnour’s game winner. But I read box scores and recaps of the game, and learned that Enes Kanter played only 8 minutes.
8 minutes? Really? To the 3rd pick in the NBA draft? Why? The Jazz owned an 18-point lead before blowing it and losing by two in the fourth quarter. 18 points up and the big man of the Jazz’s future is playing only 8 minutes. To me, that says a lot about Corbin. It shows that he cares too much about winning the game, and not about building for the future.
Now, to some, that’s an impossible statement. How can someone, especially a coach, care too much about winning? Winning is what sports is all about! Well, when your team is up 18 and the best rebounding rookie in the NBA is sitting on the bench, I think it shows a coach getting carried away and wanting too much a win that he needs to let the young guys get, by putting them in the game and learning how to keep a lead and fend off a team hungry for a win, especially on the road. This is one instance where I have a problem with Corbin’s coaching methods.
Another instance deals with the fact that Jeremy Evans and Jamaal Tinsely get absolutely no playing time whatsoever. Now, I know Evans is raw and not very good defensively, but having him play only in practice isn’t going to help him improve – he needs real game minutes where he’s learning only what the NBA can teach. But Tinsley is a seasoned veteran. Now, there have been many nights this season when point guard play has been dismal. Yes, even the unshakably fearless fighter Earl Watson has had his nights that make fans cringe. One thing Sloan was good at doing was pulling guys off the court who weren’t producing, and he’d find someone on his bench who could. Corbin should at least give Tinsley and Evans a chance when energy is lacking and the offense is stagnating – after all, two guys who never get time should come out chomping at the bit to play and prove their worth in the heat of battle. I mean, what’s the use of having them on the active roster if they’re not even going to get time?
And lastly, I have a problem with the way Corbin handled the Shambles in Sacramento. With four minutes left, the game was tied. Then a timeout was taken, and Corbin inserted back into the lineup all the starters. He took out the two young big men in Kanter and Derrick Favors, and inserted Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson. He also removed CJ Miles for Josh Howard. Now, here’s where things get interesting. Within a minute of the starters returning, the Sacramento lead jumped up to 4 points. All of a sudden, the defense was non-existent. It was a completely different team out there, minues Howard and Devin Harris who both had excellent games. It was apparent that the starters were going to be incapable of closing out this game and putting a win on the record books. Any other coach in any other city most likely would have kept in whoever was playing well and let them finish out the game.
Take for example Sundiata Gaines, who was previously mentioned. Deron Williams went out with a wrist injury midway through that game, and Gaines stepped up and played big minutes, scoring, and assisting. He did all the right things. He sat out for a few minutes to rest, but at the end of the game when the win was on the line, he was back out there on the court, ready to do battle. And he sunk the game winning shot.
Kanter and Favors were both playing inspired defense. Alec Burks was like a lawn mower with nitro in the engine and 9-year old running it rampant in the neighborhood. Harris was playing like he wants to remain in Utah and not get traded. Indeed, he, Miles, and Howard were the leading scorers for the Jazz in that game, not Milsap or Jefferson.
I do not understand why Corbin put the starters back in when they haven’t been able to close games all season long. Again and again they give up leads, make costly turnovers, and lose to the Spurs at home when they should have won. As a coach, you have to understand when guys are feeling it and when some can’t produce. And for whatever reason, the starter didn’t get it done tonight and gave up another game on the road, one I am confident that the young guys would’ve won, had they been given the chance.
That’s why I miss Jerry Sloan. I miss his knowledge on the bench, I miss lip-reading him during games, I miss his swagger and his I don’t give a crap attitude, and I miss his press conferences when he wouldn’t hold back and tell it how it was. I miss Jerry Sloan.
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