A few weeks ago, assistant coach and Utah Jazz legend Jeff Hornacek left the team for the Phoenix Suns coaching gig. That was a bittersweet day for most fans, as few are as adored as Horny was/is. We were sad to see a beloved player and bright assistant coach leave, but were also happy for him to get a head coaching opportunity, especially this early in this new phase of his career. He’ll do great in Phoenix.
Since then, however, the Utah Jazz have quietly been winning the off-season.
While the Draft, free agency, summer league, and potential trades are the main components of the off-season, what the Jazz have accomplished the past few weeks is setting the foundation for a very memorable and successful summer.
First, Karl Malone was brought back into the fold as a special coach working with the big guys. Naturally the thought of the Mailman spending time with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans, and whoever else is drafted or signed is exciting in itself. If the Hall of Fame power forward can share even a glimpse of his work ethic, professionalism, and absolute knowledge of the game, the young guys will be much better for it. While it is a part-time gig and it remains unknown how much time will be expended or the exact levels of involvement for Malone, it is refreshing to see Karl back where he belongs: with the Utah Jazz.
Moreover, it signifies a burying of the hatchet between Malone and Greg Miller. Over the years, some inflammatory comments, blog posts, and tweets were exchanged. By having this agreement, it shows that both are ready to move forward, together. After all, every time Karl and Larry H. Miller has a disagreement, they made up and had a stronger relationship afterwards. This just makes me happy
Second, the Jazz announced the improvements to EnergySolutions Arena. The enormous video board, the scoreboards, and the improved sound system will give the fans an even better experience. For years, a replacement for the outdated Jumbotron was amongst fans’ biggest requests and complaints. What the Jazz are doing to ESA could exceed anyone’s expectations and hopes.
Third, Jerry Sloan too has returned in an official capacity: senior basketball adviser. A few years removed from those fateful two weeks that saw the Dean of Coaches and an All-NBA point guard in Deron Williams leave Salt Lake City, the former is back. His job description is interesting, as it focuses on scouting, but allows for ample opportunities to consult Tyrone Corbin and the coaching staff, as well as Dennis Lindsey and Kevin O’Connor on basketball matters.
Lastly, the way Lindsey, O’Connor and company have gone about the Draft process has been refreshing. The sheer amount of workouts has been remarkable, and I venture to guess that getting so many players in town is more complicated than it appears. Furthermore the 24-player free agent camp has Dennis Lindsey written all over it.
Now, some of these developments may not excite some, and the next two months will constitute the heart of the off-season. But what is happening is encouraging. The Jazz are being deliberate and intentional in what they are doing, drawing upon and connecting to the past, while ushering in a new mindset and era.
All eyes will be watching the way the roster unfolds (the question for most: are the Jazz going to fully embrace turning the team over to the young guys), but the last few weeks have reminded me: it is a great time to be a Utah Jazz fan.