By Alan Zaugg
Special to Salt City Hoops
[Editor’s note: Alan Zaugg is a life-long Jazz fan and a friend of Jazz president Randy Rigby. Zaugg got the chance to sit down with Rigby in his office and talk about the Jazz. The following is the transcript from the interview. You can follow @jedizaugg on twitter.]
Training Camp And Preseason:
Alan Zaugg: What are your thoughts on training camp, especially now that Ty [Corbin] gets his first full camp and preseason? And what has been his approach?
Randy Rigby: I’ve been very happy with our training camp. We’ve had a full, almost month to be able to really work as a team and come together. I was extremely happy as well with the work that was done even before training camp with our work and players out at P3 in Santa Barbara. It brought them in in better shape and better conditioning and Ty has really been organized and the coaching staff has really maximized the time with our training camp. We’ve worked really hard defensively and that’s been an area we want to improve on. We felt we needed to have a good training camp because we have brought in a lot of new players into our system so we needed some time to really come together as a team.
AZ: There are a lot of players who have come into camp in really good shape. Players seem to be in much better shape. Quicker, more athletic. Al Jefferson and Enes Kanter to name a few.
RR: Kanter’s improved. Millsap’s improved. Every one of our players who has utilized P3 we’ve seen improvement in their skill sets and their abilities and that’s something we hope to build on. It’s very important for us and very important for them and their careers. It’s a win/win.
Assistant Coach Brad Jones:
AZ: How is new assistant coach Brad Jones fitting in with the staff and his new duties?
RR: Brad [Jones] coached for the Utah Flash, he is well acquainted with the Utah Jazz, our culture and our system. He’s then coached and been tutored underneath our coaching staff and has even a connection with Jerry Sloan, related through marriage from Jerry. And so Brad is the perfect addition for us. He understands our system. We hate to lose Scott [Layden], he was a great part of our organization; we wish him well with his decision. Brad was just a natural selection for us to add to the team.
AZ: How does his experience with the Austin Toros, including the [NBA D-League] championship translate over as an assistant?
RR: I think that’s very good for him to also understand how to build and grow his career and understand how to prepare players for competing and winning championships, [it] is important and we are very excited about that. And Dennis Lindsey has a very good rapport coming from the San Antonio system.
AZ: I’m really excited about Dennis Lindsey.
RR: Dennis Lindsey is gonna do a great job for us. To have the strength of Kevin [O’Connor] already in our basketball operations and then to add Dennis Lindsey, they each have great strengths and skill sets that complement one another.
AZ: What are your thoughts on the preseason chemistry of the team? My wife and I have noticed there has been a unique sense of “brotherhood” with this group. They seem to be a tight-knit group.
RR: They do have fun with Enes [Kanter]. He has that type of fun loving personality. But he works hard, he’s doing a great job. There is a great camaraderie and a great morale, [it] is very good in the locker room right now, very supportive of one another. We’re encouraged how the team is working together, how they feel about one another. Now it will be interesting to see how it will be when we really get into the heat of the season and now the games really do mean something, and minutes played mean something, but I think they’re all professionals and I think the team is gonna work together. We really pitch the idea that if you come together and give your best, you’re gonna be rewarded for it and good things will happen for us as a team.
AZ: That’s one thing I’ve noticed through preseason, players have each other’s back. The Clippers game in LA comes to mind. A couple of hard fouls and heated situations and the team came together, to back each other up.
RR: I think they really seem to enjoy one another. That’s what a team does, they stand up for one another and work together and cheer one another on and lift each other up if they’re down. So far we’re really seeing that team spirit going on with this team.
AZ: It feels like you as executives are like a tight-knit family as well. How does that translate to the team and onto the court?
RR: That’s one of the things we’ve been really promoting and doing as an organization. When Greg [Miller] met with the team, we really emphasized “here’s who we are” and “here’s what we stand for as an organization” and that we expect our players to represent Jazz basketball. Hard working, loyal, committed and really giving our fans their money’s worth. A lot people are paying a lot of money to come and watch Jazz basketball and we want them to get their value and their money’s worth. That’s what we’ve always provided in the past and we plan to do it in the future. We expect that out of our players, and we expect that out of our coaching staff and we expect that out of our front office. And everyone is doing it.
AZ: What are your expectations for the season? What are your expectations for the team as President of the Utah Jazz?
RR: I expect us to be better than last year. Now, a lot of people say “what do you think is gonna be the number?” I don’t know what that number is, but I expect us to be better. I think Kevin has done a great job in getting us more outside shooting and scoring ability. I think that’s gonna free us up more on the inside. I expect us to be better at the foul line. I think we’ve got better free throw shooting players. We’re going to see better improvement at our free throw shooting percentage. I expect to see us better defensively. And I know Ty and our coaching staff are working very hard in really lifting the intensity of our defensive mindedness. I think with all those things, that should translate into being a better team and hopefully, then, seeing us do better than we did last year in the standings. And then get to the playoffs and hopefully do better there. Our goal is to build a championship-caliber team.
AZ: What teams do you view as the biggest obstacle in the division or conference to achieving that goal?
RR: I think it’s still too early to see. One that comes to mind is Oklahoma City. They were the Western Conference champions. So that has to be the team you want to beat to be the Western Conference champions and have a chance to then play for an NBA Championship. So that is a natural one you have to look at. There’s some other really good teams out there right now. Each one has it’s own strengths and uniqueness. For us, we have to look at it with a mindset going into each game and say “what do I have to do to win that game.” Let’s not look forward to a Laker[s], let’s not look forward to an Oklahoma City. What are we doing tonight to beat Minnesota, what are we doing tonight to beat Orlando, or whoever it might be. We need to just come with a mindset that we’re going to come in there to win that game.
AZ: What are your goals for [Coach Corbin] in this his contract year? And do you anticipate signing an extension with him?
RR: We have an option for an extension with him. We’re extremely happy with Tyrone Corbin as our head coach. He is the Utah Jazz head coach. I think history will show what our philosophy is, and our style is, of how we treat and deal with head coaches and our goal is to commit and support Ty Corbin as our head coach.
AZ: How are the new acquisitions fitting in with the team?
RR: Very well. I’m very happy with Marvin Williams and I think he’s gonna be a great addition to us. I think he can flourish in our system, hopefully even more than he did with Atlanta. Mo Williams has a tough mindedness and we’ve always liked Mo Williams as a player. And Randy Foye is again a great outside shooter and will bring a different dimension to our team that we’ve needed, as well as a good foul shooter, and so I’m excited about what we’ve added. And of course Kevin Murphy, young, and I think he’s gotta just grow and learn this game.
AZ: It seems to me that Marvin Williams is taking it upon himself to help mentor and push Gordon Hayward a bit. Are there others? [Editor’s note: I haven’t seen this at all during my interactions with the team. Marvin Williams is great, but there isn’t any ‘big brother’ thing going on between him and Hayward.]
RR: I haven’t noticed that per se, but I have noticed that Marvin Williams is a class act on the court with his teammates as well as off the court in the community. He’s a guy that really connects. And I think you can see that he really loves the game. And he’s our type of player and I’m really excited to have him on our roster.
AZ: The Jazz have been very proactive in the social media movement. You did a lot to involve the fans in the game last year. What exciting new things do you have in store for us this year?
RR: We’re going to continue to improve our social media. The new Jazz app, we have some goals to actually add some additional elements to it. It was kind of hit and miss last year being able to go to the Jazz app and get live feeds and hopefully we’ve got that worked out. It’s much more user friendly for people. We’re gonna have more interaction with social media, I think, in our broadcasts as well. We did a little of that as well in pre- and post-game, as well as taking our viewers’ and listeners’ comments. I think David Locke does a great job of really being cutting edge on it. And I think David is a cutting-edge kind of social media guy. I think David’s goal is to even make that even better this year. So I think there are some things you’ll see there as well.
AZ: Gordon Hayward recently alluded to new guidelines set up for the players as far as social media. Are you at liberty to discuss that?
RR: Well, I just think the key thing is that we have said as well as an organization, we’re trying to train our players to realize that social media, you are now literally out there in the world. And your comments and your tweets or your blogs can now be picked up around the world. And so it’s very important that our players realize the power and the reach and breadth of what social media is all about. It’s not just a game. It’s really a powerful tool and you need to handle it responsibly. And so we’re really trying to help educate them and work with them on using it responsibly.
Statement To Jazz Fans:
AZ: You are speaking to Jazz fans; what would you like to tell them about the Jazz?
RR: I think what I’d like to tell them about the Jazz… We have a dedicated group of players that are really working extremely hard. I mean they eat, drink and breathe basketball during this time period. I mean, their free time is so limited, and we hold them accountable to really give us their all. They are working hard, our coaching staff is working hard, our basketball operations is working hard, our players are working hard. We are hoping that we have our fans support. And for them to have it, it’s people coming out and being there and supporting us. Maybe you can’t come for 44 or 41 regular season games — 44 with the 3 preseason. But find some time, hopefully, fans, and cheer on this team. Be there with them and truly help us be a part of Jazz basketball. And that’s what I’d say to our fans. Come out and keep giving us their support. Give us the feedback. We love the social feedback from our social media. We love people. We want people watching Jazz basketball. We want them to come out and enjoy Jazz basketball. And being a part of this team. Our fans are a key part of our team. We need them to be a part of this team and here with us just like we expect our players to be here mentally and physically when they’re called to be on the floor. We also need our fans to be here to help us as well.
Status of Arena Improvements:
AZ: And what is the status on the new Jumbotron?
RR: We are committed to getting not only a Jumbotron, we’re looking at major improvements. We’ve made some more this year with some of our VIP rooms and our sponsor rooms. We’re going to be making a major direction in improving our digital boards very soon. And so it’s the top thing on our priority list. It’s going to only enhance the real experience in the arena. This is already a great experience. This building, and that’s one thing I hope our fans know: As I’ve now traveled the NBA, there are some unique buildings, but they’re multi-purpose buildings. They are designed first for hockey and then for basketball. This is the only NBA venue that was designed for basketball first and then retrofitted for hockey. And the sight lines, our sight lines, our closeness to the floor for our fan base in both the lower bowl and upper bowl is much better than any other team’s. It’s a great venue but we got a great fanbase, really enjoys it as well. So we’re going to just continue to make this a great place to enjoy Jazz basketball. Special Request:
AZ: And I have a special request from Clint Peterson (@Clintonite33): When are you going to do a Mountain Logo Jersey throwback night as an alternate on the court? He has a tattoo of it and wondered if there is a chance for a night dedicated to that logo.
RR: [laughs] Well that is the least-favorite logo. Nobody seems to like that particular one.
[End of the interview]