I’ve been looking into potential coaches recently. I don’t claim to know what the Jazz plan to do with Corbin this offseason, but if they decide to go in a different direction, I wanted to get an idea of who may be coming to SLC.
This post will focus on some candidates who were mentioned in the comments of my previous posts. Most of them are college coaches, so I'll remind all of you that I don't really watch college basketball, so this analysis is mostly a summary of other people's observations.
Alex Jensen (Jazz Asst.)
Age: 37; Experience: 2 years (D-League), 1 year (Jazz Asst.)
if you're interested: link1
Style: I couldn't find much on his coaching style, so a lot of what I have here is assumptions. He is on record as saying that he believes in the philosophy that 'the best offense is a good defense.' Not only did he play for him, but Jensen's first assistant job was under Rick Majerus. I thus assume he incorporates some the Majerus' motion offense, which relies on hard cuts and screens to score at the rim and draw fouls. While coaching the Canton Charge, Jensen's team led the league in defensive scoring, and held opponents to under 30% shooting from 3.
Personality: Jensen is quick to admit that the players have a lot more to do with team success than the coach. He's humble and smart, and willing to put in work. He's always been very complimentary of his co-workers, whether they are players, front office, or coaches. He has a strong ability to develop a good relationship with his players, which has come in handy in his current role as player development coach. (He speaks some Turkish, which has helped him a lot with Kanter.)
My Take: Despite what I have written above, I don't know a lot about Alex Jensen. He's a Utah native, which could be nice for a lot of casual fans, but it could also turn ugly if he doesn't get the expected results. He was highly successful in the D-League, but I don't know how well that will translate to the NBA. Overall, because of his focus on defense, his familiarity with the team and it's history, and the Miller's habit of hiring from within, I think he's the most likely coach I've covered to be interviewed. I also think he has a solid chance of being very good.
Shaka Smart (VCU)
Age: 36; Experience: 5 years; Tournament Appearances: 4 (1x Final Four)
Style: Smart is best known for his 'havoc' defense. He likes throwing offenses off of their timing with lots of presses and traps. His goal is to limit the amount of shots his opponents take, so while he will take any kind of stop, his teams often ranks top five nationally in steals and forcing turnovers. He likes analytics and will adjust his schemes to fit the stats. Offensively, he looks for transition buckets and he encourages the 3. His focus is really to play in the open court, rather than get bogged down in a half-court game. This style has led to some problems as his teams tire easily playing at top speed on both sides of the court.
Personality: Smart lives up to his name. He was accepted to both Harvard and Yale (though he attended Kenyon), has a Master's degree in social sciences, and is a voracious reader who quotes literature and historical figures regularly. Not only is he highly intelligent, but he works incredibly hard, and is willing to try new things. A few years ago he brought in Navy SEALs to help his VCU team with their fitness training, and he participated in all of the drills as well. His primary philosphy is 'to stay in the moment,' which allows his team to focus solely on the task at hand without dwelling on past mistakes or successes that will distract them.
My Take: I like Smart. I think his style of play fits in well with the young team we have, though I worry the longer, more difficult schedule of the NBA would force him to adjust his havoc style. He has passed up several head coaching jobs recently (including Marquette and UCLA), so I'm not sure he'd come to the NBA either. For now, if he does jump, I see him as being an outstanding assistant before getting a head coaching job
Jay Wright (Villanova)
Age: 51; Experience: 21 years; Tournament Appearances:15 (2x Finals, 1x Champion)
Style: I didn't find much about Wright's schemes prior to this year, so I can't comment too much about his trends, just about what he did with his current group. On offense, he runs a 4-out 1-in motion, meaning there are a lot of cuts, screens, and passes, but the primary goal is to get the ball to a perimeter scorer for a three. He likes early offense, and prefers his teams to shoot within the first 10-15 seconds. Late in the shot clock, the attach becomes more post-centric. The feel is very similar to the Dwight Howard led Magic, where there was a single post presence surrounded by 3-point shooters. Over the last 10 years, Villanova's offense has been great, but their defense hasn't been so good. Some of this seems to be based on personnel. When Wright has had good instinctive defensive players, his defensive schemes work well. If his players are lacking in defensive ability or skills, then he hasn't been able to compensate. In general his defense is fairly traditional. His bigs hedge hard on the pick & roll, they protect the paint, and force turnovers.
Personality: What struck me most about Jay Wright is how much he cares about his appearance. He's become known for always wearing tailored suits (which I'm sure some here would appreciate after looking at Corbin's baggy pants), having multiple bottles of cologne with him, and being up to date on the current fashion trends. That said, he's not shallow or conceited. He works hard and expects his players to do the same. He likes aggressiveness in his players and doesn't want them to over-think the game. He believes in being completely honest with his players, so he doesn't stroke egos, but he can manage them.
My Take: I don't feel like Wright would be a good fit here, but I don't think he would be bad either. I'd prefer a more defensive minded coach, but Wright has managed to put out good defensive teams when he's had the personnel. Overall, if the Jazz brought him in, I think my reaction would be 'meh, he's not who I wanted, but we'll see how he does.'
Greg Marshall (Wichita State)
Age: 41; Experience: 7 years; Tournament Appearances:5 (1x Elite Eight)
Style: Wichita State was one of the best defensive teams in the country this year. Marshall has his team apply a lot of pressure on the ball, including the occasional full-court press. Team-wise, the Shockers' help defense is fantastic. They are well trained in positioning, so are able to seal driving lanes quickly without giving up much room on the perimeter. Marshall also emphasizes defensive rebounding, so despite not having any 'elite' rebounders on his team, they were one of the best in the NCAA in defensive rebounding percentage. Offensively, Marshall employs a lot of hard cuts and screens. He has a solid half-court offense, but isn't shy about getting into transition either. This last year he started 4 3-pt shooters, so he also understands the value of spacing the floor.
Personality: As a player, Marshall was of the Jerry Sloan mold. He was a defensive stopper who liked to play rough, and he played rough every time he was on the court. Marshall became somewhat famous for getting into fights with his own teammates because he was too rough on them in practice. He doesn't back down from anyone, and is willing (possibly happy) to get into people's faces and yell them into submission. That said, he doesn't hold grudges or have any agenda other than getting the best out of his team. He has an eye for details, and demands high levels of discipline from his players.
My Take: The more I learn about Marshall the more I like him. I think he could be a fantastic choice, but he hasn't expressed any desire to leave Wichita State. He's been offered jobs at bigger schools and has dismissed them almost without thought. I think that loyalty would be great if we could convince him to come, but it will make it hard to pull him away. He's under contract through 2018, but he doesn't have a large salary and the Jazz should be able to easily afford the buyout.
Kevin Ollie (UConn)
Age: 41; Experience: 2 years; Tournament Appearances:1 (1x Finals, 1x Champion)
Style: I haven't been able to find many specifics about Ollie's preferred style of play, but statistically, the UConn Huskies haven't been elite at anything. They seem to have solid defense that's good at defending the shot, however, they do allow a high 3P%. They rebound well, and this season they have been top ten in blocked shots, but I don't know if that's due to personnel or system. Offensively, they take a good number of 3PA, but aren't great at getting to the rim and drawing fouls, despite having a fantastic FT%.
Personality: Ollie played in the NBA for 13 seasons, and he only stuck around that long because he was a fantastic teammate and mentor. The Cavs and Thunder specifically brought him in to be a professional influence for LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He had to work hard to even make it in the NBA, playing on various 10-day contracts for the first few years of his career. He started to consistently find a place on teams because of his highly intellectual approach to the game, and that's carried into his coaching.
My Take: Ollie shows a lot of promise, but he's just too new to coaching to be a legitimate candidate for an NBA head coaching job. Given his recent NCAA championship run and the attention it's brought, I think a lot of teams will talk to him, but he doesn't really have any reason to leave UConn right now. I don't think he'll take any coaching position in the NBA until his UConn contract expires (or maybe is in it's final year).