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NBA Preseason: Jazz Coach Tyrone Corbin in for a big season


Often we fans are super quick to get happy and super quick to get upset. I know this is clearly the case for me at times, and I want to work on it. As a sports fan we pray and hope for victory, and get hung up on singular moments. That said, victory is not a product of singular events . . . victory is a product of hours and hours of work before the game even starts. As fans we watch only the most limited, but overexposed part of sports - the games. The outcome of games determines wins and losses; but the factors which influence victory conditions are mostly all from outside of the game itself.

I guess in a way, I am indubitably talking about practice. But it's more than that. In the NBA is a league which is run mainly by stars who hold a lot of individual influence over time periods. After all, while Wayne Gretzky was just as dominating as Michael Jordan -- no one compiles lists of great NHL players to never hoist the Stanley Cup because they played in the same era as "The Great One". Basketball is about performance, preparation, and also time.

There is a time for everything. When Kobe Bryant was airballing threes in the playoffs it was not his time - just then; however, he approaches timelessness now with his extended period of excellence. From him we see that early failures can be used by the right players to fuel future success. This also works for coaches too, Jerry Sloan had a good rookie year as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, only to be fired shortly after. He wasn't ready then, but he worked at it and became a legend. These are both indications where patience (something fans are short of) would have been helpful.

Outside of individuals time also affects teams. The Oklahoma City Thunder came together early, but their years of struggle showed that they were collectively not a team just yet. They worked on it, and last season they went to the NBA Finals. It now appears to be their time right now.

Time helps you better understand what you are working with. You get more data to mull over. More game film to watch and rewatch. And most importantly, hours and hours of time in practice where you do not merely observe results -- but it is in practice where you can actively experiment and test situations out. There is a limitation to being a fan, in that we can watch the games and look at the stats. But were only looking at what happened -- not actively doing the experimentation ourselves.

The Utah Jazz coaching staff, and players themselves, are doing that practical part that we miss though. For our franchise they've always been a closed door operation -- this is not going to change. The changes we fans clamor for during games will probably never happy. Not because people are stubborn (well, maybe...) but moreso because these experiments have taken place in practice, and the results were unfavorable. It is a conservative, but safe, way to handle things. There is a reason why pharmaceutical companies perform all these clinical trials before putting a product for sale; that company needs to make sure that what they are working with actually works.

I would not be surprised to know that the Jazz actually do a bunch of clinical trials during practice. We just don't see it. Of course being that conservative does lead to the reduced chance to find that massive improvement player. Bryon Russell was one such guy; and he only got his chance to be a rotation player because everyone on the depth chart ahead of him was getting killed. Change can happen, but it too takes time.

So what does all of this have to do with Tyrone Corbin? Do I think that it is his "time" now to dominate the league as a head coach? No. I do not think that at all. I do think that he's in for a really big season though. Perhaps not 'big' in the way he would want thought. I, as a fan, like Tyrone Corbin. He's been a part of my life for years ever since he was the starting small forward for the Phoenix Suns back in the late 1980s. I've followed his career since then. And as a fan I'm happy that he's still involved with our team.

Pleasantries aside, I think we can say that the grace period for Corbin is over. He was untouchable early because he was a mid-season field promotion. It was necessary to stop the bleeding, and try to win some games. Then we had a lockout, and such a compacted schedule that we couldn't get anything done. There was little training camp, so things had to be simplified. Furthermore, there was no time for practice, so teaching, learning, and player development couldn't happen either. I think that those are significant enough 'crazy reasons' that justify (or JustiTy?) the untouchable status for Corbin. Everyone always spit out the part line about how great he was. It became an in-joke how Corbin would be pumped up, and even brought up, when answer questions that didn't even mention him to begin with.

Corbin is now starting his 9th year as a coach with the Utah Jazz, the majority of it was as an assistant. But as a head coach he's now in his third year - even if he started one year after the head coach and primary assistant coach stepped down, and the next season had a lockout. He's had two training camps (one shorter than the other). And he's now one home game against the Portland Trail Blazers away from having two preseasons under his belt too. He is two games shy of being the head coach for 100 games (regular season and playoffs combined). He's still new. The situation has been far from ideal. But now, I think, he recognizes that it is his time.

After all, the Jazz make decisions on getting rid of young players after 1 or 2 years all the time without giving them in-game experience. Ty knows this too. His grace period is over.

That does not mean it's time NOW to get upset over preseason rotations, it's the regular season games that still count. What it does mean is that the kid gloves are off. Corbin was 6th place in Coach of the Year voting last year. He's not a horrible coach. But he's not perfect either. If we can yell about Al Jefferson, or Gordan Giricek, then we should now be allowed to be critical of Corbin. And not have our criticism be unfounded or premature.

Trends are developing with his coaching style. We have a lot of data. And he'd done well enough to finish NBA Head Coaching Tutorial mode, and is able to go out into the vast wilderness where he will sink or swim. And he'll do it here for the Utah Jazz in 2012-2013.

It's going to be a big season for Ty because he coaxed the playoffs out of a mismatched roster and used some absurd lineups. He's not a green coach thrust in a horrible situation. Dozens of coaches would want to be the head coach of the Jazz right now. (Seriously: hey -- go coach four lotto picks for a team that has sensibly priced vets who are productive, in a place that has lots of cap space and very low criticism from local media!)

Ty has to be up to the challenge now. I've been patient with him, defending him almost endlessly (when it doesn't involve Josh Howard). And he has lasted long enough, been given enough seasons, and grown individually as a head coach to EARN the right to have legit criticism ascribed to him. It's going to be a big season for Tyrone Corbin -- if for no other reason than the fact that it's now time to place some of the glory and some of the blame at his feet. For all of our sakes, I hope all the closed door experimentation results in a working model for the future success of this roster, and our franchise going forward.

As a fan, I think Ty can do it. He's made some mistakes. But if the NBA is a game where it's about individual growth over time, I have to believe Corbin will succeed.