Note: this didn't really happen.
Clark: Welcome to the interview Dennis. I really am sorry that I had to lure you here to my basement under the guise that I was Danny Ainge with an offer you needed to hear about. Would you like some more cheesecake?
Dennis: No thanks. But tell your wife it was delicious and thank you. You know i would have done a sit down interview with you if you just asked. I'm a nice guy that way. Just for future reference.
Clark: Good to know. Thanks, Dennis. I'm just so used to Kevin O'Connor and he was always so angry when I kidnapped him and gave him truth serum. So just to let you know, that Cheesecake was laced with truth serum...
Clark: And now you are going to tell me the truth when I ask you these questions.
Dennis: Sure, sure. I understand.
Clark: Okay, great. Wow. I just feel sort of guilty, now. You are being so nice about this situation.
Dennis: Well, Clark, I don't have much to hide. I'm not going to run from anything or hide from the decisions I've made and the way I view basketball. We are going to talk about basketball and not my love life, or something, I presume?
Clark: Absolutely. No, I would never make you reveal anything about your personal life. So some in the organization have called this the season of discovery. What have you discovered about this team this year?
Dennis: Oh man...That we have a lot of work to do, first and foremost (uncomfortable laugh). I mean, there is just a lot to do. We aren't very good and we have a long way to go to become a championship level team. I'm not telling you anything you don't know. But specifically, I am learning about the players here and the coaching staff, and the trainers, and the owners. I knew a lot about the players here before I took the job, but seeing them up close and personal and meeting and working with everybody has been really good. There are a lot of great people here in this organization.
Clark: Do you have any regrets taking this job?
Dennis: Oh no. Not at all. This is a great place. I had a lot of opportunities to do this job for other organizations and I was waiting for the right opportunity. I have a chance to build this team from the ground up almost. We have a lot of picks, a lot of clean salary books in the future and some good, young players. This is like a dream come true for me. And most importantly, I have the support of the Jazz ownership to see this through. I'm really excited.
Clark: So what is the plan? What is your vision for this team moving forward?
Dennis: Well it's no secret that we didn't build a very competitive roster this season. This was part of the plan, but it's important that Jazz fans know that I didn't plan on losing a bunch of games. I'm not going to sit here and say that I didn't know that was a strong possibility and that there are also some wonderful players in this upcoming draft. I've been watching some of these players for 4 or 5 years, so I have a pretty good feel for them. But I didn't go into this season thinking "how can I get so and so on my team?" or "we need player x at this position." This draft is a great safety net, or a consolation prize. But it isn't the goal. Ask Boston how shooting for a top pick works out. They shot for Tim Duncan and wasted a whole season to get Tim Duncan and they walked away with Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer. That is demoralizing. I'm trying not to repeat that, I guess you could say.
Clark: If getting a top pick wasn't the main goal, what is the main goal of this season?
Dennis: Development. Development and evaluation. I've learned a lot about our players and more importantly, they have learned a lot about themselves and where they need to be. There's this concept, it's not really groundbreaking, and it's the "process of winning." We need to learn that process. I have said that I don't care much about wins and losses or really production this season and I was telling the truth. I want our team to become obsessed with winning, but more importantly the process of winning.
Clark: Can you explain that a little more?
Dennis: Sure. It's no big secret. There is just a right way to do things and there is a bad way, but there is also a better way to do things. We need to have a winning mentality and a winning process in this organization everyday. And really, it starts with me and with ownership. But it comes down to game planning and execution and preparation, diet, exercise, sleep patterns. All of that. We need to always do things the right way, that will eventually lead to winning over time. You can win games, or even make the playoffs doing things "a less good way" we can call it. But that shouldn't be rewarded or applauded, especially over losing the right way, if that makes sense.
Clark: Let's talk a little bit about players specifically.
Clark: Gordon Hayward. You didn't agree on a contract last off season. Is it safe to say that you won that negotiation for now?
Dennis: Not at all. Winning that negotiation, would have been Hayward coming out and absolutely killing the league and leading this team to a winning record. We have no problem paying Gordon Hayward a lot of money, if he is a large money type player. That is what I would have loved to see. But we were negotiating from a position of strength. There was no upside for us giving him a contract he wanted without him proving he could be worth that. We just wanted him to show us first. We can still, and plan to match the offer that he receives, if he does. Or else we will negotiate a deal. We want him here. It's been a tough year for him, but we still have a lot of faith in Gordon.
Clark: What if he gets a max contract from somebody this summer? Will you match?
Dennis: Well, I would be surprised, first of all. But we know it's a possibility. And we will have to make that decision then. There are a lot of factors that will happen between now and July 1st that we will talk about and discuss and we will make a decision then. So in short, I don't know what we would do. But we have planned for several different scenarios. There isn't a scenario that would be a complete surprise to me.
Clark: Derrick Favors. You were able to lock him up to a favorable deal, pun totally intended. What have you thought about his play this season?
Dennis: Some good and some not as good. He hasn't had the defensive impact I was sort of hoping he might have, but he's been better than our team defense would indicate. But we feel good about the deal we gave him. He's a good guy, who wants to be very good. It was what the market dictated for a player of his caliber and age and upside. And I've been pretty impressed with some of his offensive improvements. He's so young and he will be here a long time I think. There is a lot of years for him to become a defensive force that we think he can become. If you look at some of the best defensive bigs in the NBA right now, most of them took a few years of starting to have a huge defensive impact. Derrick had a unique situation coming into the league. He's 22. We aren't trying to win a championship this season, so we can be patient, a little bit.
Clark: And what about Burks? Is he a starter? How good do you see him becoming?
Dennis: Lets just talk about all of the young guys, since I know you are going to ask. They all have a ways to go and have improvements to be made. Alec has played much better the second half of the season. The same is true with Enes Kanter and Trey Burke. Just like Gordon and Derrick, they've shown some big flashes and they've show some disappointing play. We don't need to decide about these guys today.
Now Alec and Enes are a little bit unique because they will be up for new contracts this summer, but again, and I can't emphasize this enough, we will be negotiating from a position of strength. We have good relationships with these players and their agents and we have some smart people in the front office that have done some contract negotiating. We have two years to figure out what Alec and Enes are worth. And no one on this roster is irreplaceable.
Clark: Just like Beyonce says.
Dennis: Who's Beyonce? The singer?
Clark: Nevermind. Is Trey Burke the point guard of the future for this team?
Dennis: That's the plan. He's a winner. He's a very crafty point guard who has quarterbacked some very effective offenses. He's not more important than any of the young guys, just because we don't have other options on this roster. That was by design. I wanted Trey to be the clear cut point guard and have the chance to have the starter spot locked up from day 1. But drafting Trey was less about getting the point guard of the future and just getting a very good player. We drafted the 2nd or 3rd best rookie in this draft. Down the line, he still looks like he's going to be a top 10 or top 5 player in his draft class. And we gave up the 14th and the 21st pick for a top guy from the draft. And then we got a guy we loved in Rudy Gobert for $3 million. So essentially, we traded the 14th pick and $3 million for Trey. That was and is a good deal for us. And again, let's see what type of player Trey is 3 or 4 or 5 years from now, before we get too worried about his place in the league.
Clark: You can admit that you didn't want a veteran to take away Trey's minutes at the point, but was that the plan for all of the young guys? Did you expect to have Burke and Burks, Hayward, Kanter and Favors be your starters and play the most minutes?
Dennis: Not necessarily. I have ideas of what lineups I would use and play and how I would coach. But I am not the coach. I'm not ever going to tell the head coach of this team who to play. I can make suggestions and we meet together and talk about our individual visions, but I am not the coach. It's not my job.
Clark: So you have no issues with the way playing time has been given to this roster?
Dennis: I have different opinions. But no issues. I am surprised that Marvin and Richard have started and played as many minutes as they have. That surprised me, but you can certainly justify it as well. They've both played really well during stretches. Would it make my job easier if the guys I wanted to see together played all of their minutes together? Without question. But you can't find a coach in this league right now who hasn't made some regrettable lineup decisions, or I should say, some decisions that you would not agree with. In that way, the perfect coach just doesn't exist. And not everybody can be pleased. It's impossible.
Clark: Is there anything else that you and Ty don't...
Dennis: I can tell where you are going with this, so let's just cut to the chase. Ty Corbin is a really good guy. He's a good man. He has a lot of friends in this organization and no enemies. He's not a perfect coach. He knows he's not. I know, you know it. But Ty is a victim of his past. If you just look at his decision making from this season alone, I think you would be pretty pleased. But add on some of the decisions from the past and he was hung before the trial.
I'll tell you a story. In 2012 when the Spurs were preparing to play the Jazz in the playoffs, the Jazz had sort of stumbled upon this magic, uh, sort of recipe, of playing Millsap and Favors and Jefferson together. The Spurs weren't afraid of playing the Jazz, but we were disappointed that they were going to be a more competitive team than we originally planned for. And then game 1 happens and there is Josh Howard as the starting small forward and we didn't have to face that lineup of Millsap, Favors, and Jefferson until the series was already decided. Some of us in San Antonio nearly bought Ty a fruit basket. It was sort of the joke around the office during that series. But that type of decision stays with a coach and I think with that and sort of the history of his preferring veterans has put him in a no-win situation this year. So this year in a vacuum, is justifiable, but add that to the past and...Ty should be allowed to grow and improve. And he has.
Clark: But you told him he didn't need to worry about wins and losses. You made it fairly clear and easy for him.
Dennis: I made it really hard for him, actually. I gave him a tall tall task publicly to get this team to play defense and that is one mammoth task, especially for a coach without a strong defensive acumen. I put Ty in a no-win situation. Sometimes I regret throwing the word "defense" out there, but we can't hide from the fact that we have to be elite defensively to compete for a championship. But fans have sort of latched onto the fact that we are the worst defense in the NBA and connect the dots that it means he's been a failure this season. He hasn't been.
Clark: So you're suggesting that he hasn't been as bad as some Jazz fans think. Is he coming back next season as coach?
Dennis: Now that I won't tell you. I won't address that.
Clark: Did the truth serum wear off? The bottle said it would last 2 hours.
Dennis: I spent several years developing an immunity to truth serum. You have to in this industry. I've just been honest with you. I told you. I'm a nice guy. I gave you this information completely independent of you trying to drug me. Now if you don't mind, I have a dinner I need to get to with my family. And then I have some scouting to do.
Clark: Oh man. I feel really stupid, Dennis. I'm really sorry. But before you go, do you have any advice for Jazz fans like myself?
Dennis: Sure. Show some patience. We aren't going to win a championship this season. And probably not next year either. But we are building something. There is a plan in place and if you pay attention, you will have a lot of fun overall. Some days will be miserable. Growing pains are normal and we aren't going to skip any steps. But Rome wasn't built in a day and those other cliches. Give me a couple seasons to show you what we have. Or don't. Just be fair and honest with yourself and with this team.