Posted by: James Seaman on January 6th, 2012The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
During the off-season, I had the opportunity to interview Ty Corbin. In the last calendar year, Corbin saw his son named Mr. Basketball in Utah and replaced a legend as coach of the Utah Jazz—twenty years after Corbin was traded here as a player. His is now a basketball life come full circle. In talking to Coach Corbin, I wanted to get a little more at who Ty is and the journey he’s traveled.
Your son was Mr. Basketball at West High School last year and now will be playing college ball. How did you separate being a coach from being a father as your son developed?
Since the time he could carry a basketball I used to take him to the gym with me. He was my little buddy riding in the car. He really got into it because he kind of wanted to do what dad was doing. In 2004 when I retired from playing I started coaching his teams. The little league basketball team and I coached his little league football team. I had to learn at that time that as much as I knew about the game, he was a 7, 8, 9 year old kid so I couldn’t expect him to understand what I was saying. So I kind of just detached the coach part of it and went on the father-son part and was just enjoying being with my son and enjoying him being part of a sport that he loved. It’s been a tremendous treat, man.
I understand you just dropped your son off to begin college. What was that experience like for you?
It was interesting because our daughter just graduated a year ago from Clemson University. But this is the first time our son is really going to be on his own. He’s excited about it but he’s a little bit apprehensive because it’s such a new experience for him. I’m excited for him to see the change in his personality and the growth in his body—the development that he will have in both over the next four years.
Your son is going to be at UC-Davis which is near Sacramento—is he going to be a Kings fan?
I think he’ll remain a Jazz fan. I certainly hope he will. He’s really in tune with what’s going on with me and with this team and he knows a lot of the guys so I think he’ll remain a Jazz fan.
What advice did you give him about choosing a college?
Go where you think you’re going to have the best chance to play and go where you think you’re going to be happy for the next four years of your life. Go where you’re going to get a good education and we’re going make sure school is first.
You’re from South Carolina which is kind of a football hotbed, though there are also 35 current and former NBA players from your hometown of Columbia. Did you prefer football or basketball growing up?
I played two years of football in high school. By the time I became a junior, basketball was going to be the future so my high school coach and my mom decided basketball would be better to focus on. They ended up being right.
When you came to Utah the first time (after being traded for Thurl Bailey in November of 1991), how did the trade affect you?
It was mixed emotions for me. I was one of the first players to go to Minnesota as an expansion franchise. I had good individual success but it was an expansion team. But we were growing together and getting better. This was a great opportunity with the coach and players in Utah. It was refreshing for me because now I’d have a chance to win more games with a team that was going to compete every night on the floor and a coach that was going to demand that you play hard every night you step on the floor.
What was your initial perception of Salt Lake and the Jazz, and did you ever think of it as home?
I would always go back to South Carolina. All the years I played in the league, we always went back in the summer. I always approached it like Salt Lake will be the city that I work in. I’d always heard the people are nice and it’s a place you can really focus on your job. I looked forward to getting into the community and being as active in the community as I could be. I knew Utah was a franchise that had a tradition of doing things the right way and of winning.
What did you miss most when the Jazz traded you to Atlanta?
I missed the structure and the discipline of this organization. The team in Atlanta wasn’t as good as [the Jazz]. But Lenny Wilkins was building something good. I really thought the team we had here had a chance to compete for a championship at some point. Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for me, in ‘97 and ‘98 they did go to the championship, and I wasn’t able to be part of those teams.
The Jazz traded Thurl Bailey to acquire you—was it difficult having to replace a well-known player like Thurl?
I thought of it as they saw the value in me to replace Thurl, a guy who had been a part of this community and this team for a lot of years. I wanted to let the fans know every night I stepped out on the floor that this franchise did not make a mistake by having me replace Thurl. Every night I stepped out there I knew I had something to prove.
How different is life for you in Utah the second time around, now as a coach?
Now I have a lot more time. When I played here as a player you play the game, you go to practice, you pretty much go home. I had my daughter who was in the Montessori school up in the avenues so we spent more family time and just had kind of a smaller circle. And now I’m a little bit more in the community. Play golf a little bit more, go out to dinner a little more. It’s a lot more diverse and you can find a lot more things than people give the city credit for. It’s a great community, the people have been tremendous. It’s a beautiful, beautiful area, man. The mountains, there are some great golf courses here. I don’t ski. But some of the best and most scenic golf courses I play on are right here in Utah.
Where do you like going out to eat in Salt Lake?
We go everywhere from Cheesecake Factory to Bayleaf downtown. My wife, she likes Café Rio. Flemmings when you want get some good steak. I’m not too upset with the southern style chicken sandwich and the sweet tea at McDonalds. I’m a sweet tea guy from South Carolina.
Speaking of food, where did you get the nickname Milkman?
The milk mustache started right here in Utah. We did the first campaign that I’m aware of with the milk mustache. Utah Dairy Farmers had a campaign going to drink more milk. I was the player they selected to do the commercial and to do the signage on it. I had the first milk mustache.
Do you stay in touch with Coach Sloan?
Oh man, great guy. We talk on occasion now. But he’s really enjoying retirement and I want to give him space, and he wanted to give me space to get used to the position I have. I have had conversations with him about what’s going on with the business and what’s going on in his life. We do stay in contact a little bit.
You face the challenge of coaching a young team as they develop. How will your experiences as a father and a player mentor in the NBDL help you?
Those experiences, I will fall back on because I know the personality a little bit more of these new young guys. The desire to be better but not having the understanding of how to be better, of having to work. The way you have to communicate with these young guys is a little bit different now because they’ve been so good for so long, they’re kind of used to guys letting them have their way. We have to have cohesiveness. My experiences will help me communicate with these guys.
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