I realize the knee-jerk reaction to this after the Spurs loss could get easily in the way, so I preemptively ask you to set that aside and look at this as objectively as possible. Try to recall all the times past when Jerry would get the boot in the butt mid-game and fans would go, "Well, we got this one now!"
When we first heard that Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan would be MIA for a pair of work days in his beloved occupation due to family affairs, Kevin Ferguson and I (@kfanferg makes a great follow, especially if you like baseball, PAC football, and MMA in between your doses of Jazz) began to speculate on "The Flog" about the potential of the team without him in attendance.
Sloan rarely misses a showdown, only 16 times in 1,983 games, or less than a single percent of them.
As I began to ponder the Jazz assistants a little more closely in my mind their accomplishments quickly piled up prompting me to spurt out "Any of the Jazz's three assistants could head coach for any of ten NBA teams."
Hmm, too brash?
Phil has been a head coach, a highly successful one. Ty has been considered for the top spot a couple of times. Scott has not only the bloodlines to bring the thing full circle, but also executive experience on one of the most brightly lit NBA stages.
Lets bio blast 'em to see what we can find out.
The native Idahoan was a protégé of the great Dick Motta at Utah's Weber State after playing basketball for Utah State's Aggies. Phil took over head coaching duties for the Kansas City Kings (now the Sacramento Kings) mid-way through the 1973-74 season after Bob Cousy and Draff Young, improving them by 11 games the following season to garner Coach of the Year honors, taking the beleaguered Kings to their first playoffs in seven years.
Every bit the rock that Jerry Sloan is to the franchise, Johnson, who has history with Sloan as a fellow Bull, has always maintained that he'd rather be nowhere else than by Sloan's side in Utah, but he could surely do more with less than a guy like Vinny Del Negro has as a head coach were he to ever feel the tug of a head coaching career again.
Phil is known as more of a player's coach than Sloan, Jerry saying of Johnson that "he’s got a great knack for being able to explain things much better than I was ever able to do." It's been said many, many times that when Sloan decides to hang it up the job is Phil's first if he so chooses.
The Jazz barely miss a beat with the four-time Assistant Coach of the Year subbing for Sloan, a recognition from his peers that he again received this year with 23.1% of the vote, one spot above our next candidate.
That's right. The top two assistant coaches both belong on the Jazz.
In the NBA GM Survey this year the second-best assistant coach was former Jazz wingman Tyrone Corbin, stealing away another 15.4% of the total votes for the Notes.
Before we go any further I must say I've always advocated more airtime for Ty Corbin. Call it "Ty's Ties" or something, whatever, I just like listening to the guy. He's sharp, knows his stuff.
The former DePaul player/graduate from South Carolina knows his sets just as well on either side of the ball and has been the subject of potential head coaching chatter the last couple of offseasons by Phoenix and Chicago. It wasn't the first nibble either; the franchise formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics considered Corbin a top prospect as well, even years ago.
The Sonics, Suns, and Bulls might have been better served to have taken the man that in his balling days "wanted to be a player who could play for any coach." Ty helps bridge the gap between Sloan and Johnson and the players by being a vital cog in the wheel that is the Jazz with his team-first attitude.
Corbin can often be seen running the team in summer leagues and scrimmages, and shared a season with our final candidate in the bright lights of NYC as the Knicks Manager of Player Development.
An astute observer the former four-year General Manager and President of the Knicks has been an instrumental part of 12 50-win seasons for NBA teams.
After graduating from Saint Francis, where he got a taste of leadership as the basketball team's captain, he joined his father, then head coach of the Jazz, Frank Layden, learning the ropes in 1981.
He would go on to become the man widely credited with creating the dynamic duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone as he experienced nearly every facet of NBA management along the way with Utah until joining New York in 1999.
Now in his second stint as an assistant for the Jazz he's also been a director of personnel, director of basketball operations, as well as a vice president for Utah.
Bringing his east coast accent and attitude back 'home' to Utah in 2005 to the Jazz he also brought with him an attention to detail rarely matched by a coach. By making attainable goals like "12 deflections-per-quarter" for his understudies on the floor he keeps finding creative ways to eek out another ounce of effort from his guys.
We're lucky as Jazz fans to have a group of guys that Sloan can trust to keep things running smoothly in his rare absences. It's not hard to imagine that any of them could have ended up elsewhere running a show on their own. I can't imagine any of them could have done any worse than a Don Nelson or an Isiah Thomas has.