Since the news came down on Monday that the Utah Jazz were not going to extend Tyrone Corbin, the landscape for the franchise looks vastly different. It is an unprecedented time for the Jazz, as they have not conducted an off-season coaching hire in since Frank Layden’s time. It’s a mix of excitement, anticipation and nervousness as Utah turns the page on a new era.
There are many names being mentioned and Salt City Hoops will be doing its part over the next week or so to provide some profiles for potential candidates. While the hot names are Ettore Messina, Quin Snyder, Jim Boylen and even John Stockton, there are some other prospects that fans should keep their eyes on.
Alex Jensen is a familiar name, given his ties to the state. Jensen grew up in Centerville and was Utah’s Mr. Basketball in 1994. He went on to have a very solid career at the University of Utah, playing for the one and only Rick Majerus. He was a glue guy, doing all the things that help a team win: rebounding, defensive stops, hustle plays. Jensen was, of course, part of the squad that fought for the 1998 national championship, just falling short to Kentucky.
He went undrafted, but enjoyed a nice international career in Spain, Japan, Turkey, with the bulk of his time spent in Enes Kanter’s homeland. Jensen and Majerus reunited at Saint Louis, when the former assisted the later for four seasons.
Jensen then got the opportunity to be a head coach in the NBA Developmental League. The D-League has helped propel the careers of many basketball players, but it is also a training ground for coaches just as much as players. It did not take long for Jensen to show what he could do, earning the D-League Coach of the Year honors his second year.
He spent the last season working with the Utah Jazz as a player development coach and from all accounts, the Jazz are very interested in retaining him going forward. That could naturally be in his current role, working with a new coaching staff. Or perhaps there could be more in store for him.
The Deseret News’ Mike Sorensen had a wonderful article about Jensen, his ties with Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey, his coaching resume and so forth. And a year ago, ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz profiled Jensen in a list of Who’s ready to be an NBA head coach. According to Arnovitz, Jensen was the prevailing candidate for the most likely head coach from the D-League.
Jensen has familiarity with the current corps of players, having working with them individually and collectively the past year. Always a cerebral person, he’s had the chance to look closely to see what has worked in Utah and what needs to be addressed. With a young group of players, the 37-year old could be a coach who could grow with the team.
It would be wise to keep an eye on Jensen. It seems likely that, one capacity or another, he will be part of the Jazz organization moving forward.