As a Utah Jazz fan I've seen the last of Frank Layden, all of , all of , and now the nascent period of . I get it. Some big market fans will see 12 different head coaches in the span of 18 months. But the Utah Jazz are different. Here you actually are given a chance and a half to get better at your job. Of course, that wasn't really the case of the New Orleans Jazz that were in a hyper over-corrective mood and once had three different head coaches in a single season. Things were not easy for Scotty Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Butch van Breda Kolff. And there was a little more stability there when former Utah Stars head coach Tom Nissalke came on board. But ultimately the team didn't really starting making sweet music until the 1980s. It's pretty clear that Jazz history places Jerry Sloan as the best. But who was second best?
I'm biased, so I'm going to say Frank Layden. But let's try to make the numbers work for us, even if the different eras do not always match up. The normal things are games coaches, wins, and losses. Duh. Even if you include the playoffs you do not get out of the hazard of realizing that a lot of these coaches were mid-season replacements, and not all of them had full training camps.
The first thing I decided to do was naturalize all of their experience into an estimated number of full seasons as head coach. (e.SEA) This is simple maths, just the total number of regular season and playoff games as the head coach, divided by 82 games. There were a number of lockouts during these periods and a number of mid-season coaching changes. The eSEA value is more accurate than anything else -- and it gives you a bonus if you are a head coach who actually gets your team to the playoffs. Sure, that gives Jerry an advantage, but I think he deserves one.
The second thing was to then identify how many wins a head coach was good for, per season. This is also simple maths, it's the total number of wins (playoffs and regular season combined) divided by eSEA. This eWIN was a surprising value to find, particularly because so many of the earl New Orleans coaches did not get a chance to really show what they could do. On the other hand, you could also blame their poorer performance on other stability issues (like having weaker front offices, and having weaker roster talent).
Anyway, here's the data, sorted from an eWIN bias best to least:
|Years||Regular Season||NBA Playoffs||Total Games|
|5||Butch van Breda Kolff||1974||1977||174||74||100||42.5%||0||0||0||--||174||74||100||42.5%||2.12||34.87|
|7||Tom Nissalke (*)||1974||1982||228||78||150||34.2%||6||2||4||33.3%||234||80||154||34.2%||2.85||28.03|
|* Tom Nissalke games with Utah Stars and Utah Jazz|
|eSEA = Estimated Seasons, which is total games divided by 82|
|eWIN = Estimated Wins per Season, which is total wins divided by eSEA|
N.B. Yes, I included Nissalke's Stars games, but did not include Bill Sharman, LaDell Andersen, Joe Mullaney, or Bucky Buckwalter -- the head coaches of the Anaheim Amigos / Los Angeles Stars / Utah Stars teams. I did not think that their data was that useful. (I did work it out, but none of them where spectacular)
ANYWAY -- Jerry Sloan gets you 50 wins a year, every year, for a quarter of a century. Hard to argue with that. Who is number two? Frank? He was there for 7.46 eSEA and got you 39.53 eWIN? I guess so. I love Frank Layden. He was hilarious. He knew how to motivate players. He knew enough to give Karl Malone big minutes as a rookie because he knew how to make him a star. Frank Layden is amazing. He was my first Jazz head coach so obviously there's a lot of nostalgia there for me. He made sure to troll Pat Riley in that awesome 7 game 2nd round series in 1988. I loved all of that.
But, hey, Quin Snyder -- though really untested -- could actually surpass him in a few years in eWIN. He is only down by 1.79 eWIN per season. I can imagine that if he ever gets to coach a health team for a season that could help him close the gap. We're a results based fanbase for the most part. And so far we've seen Quin Snyder lead a team to some very nice regular season wins, but so far in season two we may have legit doubts about his ability to help this team make the playoffs. Again, I think that's really a roster health issue more than anything else. It's going to be interesting to revisit this idea after Quin's contract is up in another 2.5 seasons.
So who does #2 work for?
So who is the second best head coach in Jazz franchise history? Who is going to be the second best in two years from now?