Jerry Sloan: Unexpected Piece of Jazz’s Puzzle?

June 3rd, 2013 | by Andy Larsen
Jerry Sloan and Ty Corbin (center) sit together at the Chicago NBA Draft Combine. Photo Credit: AllThatAmar

Jerry Sloan and Ty Corbin (center) sit together at the Chicago NBA Draft Combine. Photo Credit: AllThatAmar

Late last night, Jody Genessy released this report that the Utah Jazz have talked to former head coach Jerry Sloan about returning to the club. There’s still much we don’t know: we don’t know if the interest is mutual (though Jerry telling a newspaper reporter about it is a good sign), and we don’t know the position that was discussed (though the departure of Hornacek means there’s an obvious vacancy in an assistant’s spot on the bench). But Jerry’s constant presence as a season ticket holder last year, then his work with the Jazz at the NBA draft combine in Chicago, and now this report indicates a trend of increasing involvement for the Hall Of Fame coach and his former franchise.

After attending the NBA draft combine in Chicago, and witnessing Sloan’s involvement first hand, Mychal Lowman posted his theory: that Sloan was coming back to the Jazz to become Ty Corbin’s assistant. Just as former Coach-of-the-Year winner Phil Johnson’s worked as Sloan’s right-hand man as Sloan grew to become the HOF coach, Sloan would work as Corbin’s mentor, helping his former player and assistant reach his full potential as a head coach. At the combine, Sloan was spotted sitting right next to Corbin, and Corbin worked more closely with Sloan than with anyone else on the staff, including Kevin O’Connor, Dennis Lindsey, or scout Walt Perrin. Also accurately pointed out by Lowman: given the Jazz’s steadfast insistence on secrecy, Sloan’s involvement suggests that he isn’t about to join another franchise.

What would Sloan’s assistantship tenure look like? Despite his old-school reputation and playing career, in which he was far more impactful defensively than offensively, Sloan’s coaching expertise has been on the offensive side of the ball. Sloan led two different teams to league-leading offensive performances: in 1997-98, the Jazz put up a 112.7 Offensive Rating with Stockton and Malone at the helm (a performance that Dean Oliver selected as the 3rd best offense in league history in his book Basketball on Paper), and in 2007-08, when he led the Williams/Boozer/Okur Jazz team to a 113.8 Offensive Rating, better than even the Phoenix offensive juggernaut. That being said, it’s possible that his best accomplishment was leading a team with Andrei Kirilenko, Greg Ostertag, Raja Bell, Carlos Arroyo, and Jarron Collins as playing time leaders to offensive respectability in 2003-04. He’s also shown an remarkable ability to adapt his offense system: the pick-and-roll attack of Stockton-and-Malone is legendary, but he eschewed that system in favor of the flex for the Williams/Boozer years.

That all being said, the Jazz’s main problem last year was defense, ranking just 21st in the league. On the Salt City Hoops Saturday Show, I advocated for a defensive assistant coach like Scott Skiles or someone of his ilk to join the Jazz, after all, that’s where the most improvement is to be made. But depending on which players return for the Jazz next year, an offensive coach may actually be more needed. Consider: last season, when Al Jefferson was not on the floor, the Jazz played excellent defense, to the tune of a 100.8 Defensive Rating. That total, if continued for the whole season, would have made the Jazz the third best defense in the league, just behind the Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies. Should Jefferson not return to the Jazz next season, the Jazz’ defensive woes may already be solved.

That leaves the offensive end of the floor as the source of potential improvement. Though the Jazz’s offensive reliance on Al Jefferson was drastically overstated last season (the Jazz were just 0.3 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Al on the floor, after being 10.4 points better with him in 2011-12), the boogeyman of poor bench offensive performance may disappear should Sloan return as an assistant. Given his well-deserved reputation for getting the most on offense out of his players, Corbin may feel more comfortable going to his defensively excellent bench with Sloan around. A defensive unit featuring Hayward, Favors, and Kanter; an offensive system built by Sloan, and Corbin’s excellent team-building skills may just be the Jazz’s ingredients to future greatness.

Of course, with so many hypotheticals, it’s far too early to predict the Jazz’s return to relevancy this upcoming season. But should the pieces fit together like this, the future looks really bright. Coach Sloan, your move.

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
Andy Larsen

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  1. Abarr83 says:

    I love the seemingly new trend of having offensive and defensive coordinators in basketball. Sloan would be a great offensive addition and as you said would let Ty and others have a more defensive focus. I find it difficult to believe that Jerry would come back as an assistant though. Hopefully it happens, a lot of Jazz fans would be happy.

  2. Roy says:

    As much as I love Sloan, I’m not convinced the best place for him is on the coaching bench next to Corbin. His system is set up around the pick and roll. Utah doesn’t have the roster to pull off that kind of offense. I’d rather see Jerry in a management position (the guy’s basketball mind is legendary) and bring in some new coaching personal for some fresh, outside ideas that complement the core four.

    • Jesse says:

      What do you mean that the Jazz don’t have the roster for the PnR? Favors would thrive in the pick and roll. Kanter has shown to be pretty good and the pick n pop too. Hayward is a good enough shooter and passer to excel at it as well.

      • Roy says:

        The success of the pick and roll revolves around a certain type of point guard, which seems to be absent from the Jazz roster.

        • joebountiful says:

          The offense during the Deron Williams era wasn’t a pick and roll it was a flex offense. I think that would work well for our current group.

        • Adam says:

          If you can sign Jose Calderon (Which is possible) you have the PG that can run a flex or a PnR system.

        • Roy says:

          Yes, thank you joe. I agree. The flex offense suits the current roster the best. Sloan was very good at it, so maybe he can help Corbin and the players with it. Utah has some athletes in Burks and Hayward who can cut to the basket. Hopefully Malone can instill some of the passing genius to Favors and Kanter that made him such a threat.

        • Braeden Jensen says:

          Not to be a turd or anything, but EVERY kind of point guard is absent from the Jazz roster at the moment, as they don’t have a single one signed for next year. We have no idea what the PG position is going to look like next year, at this point…

          • Justin says:

            Shouldn’t we wait till after the offseason to evaluate what kind of team we have? Mean time if Sloan returns to assist Corbin and our Jazz that is not only great for the team it kind of returns things to right in the world after his departure.

  3. Clint Johnson says:

    I don’t think Sloan would work as Ty’s assistant because it would make Ty’s position untenable. He is already fairly unpopular with a large percentage of the Jazz fan base. Next season has always struck me as a different paradigm in which it will be easier to get a sense of what Ty truly is as a coach, but add Sloan to the mix and every improvement in coaching, from play calls to lineups and everything in between, will be credited to Sloan. Ty will look like a puppet head, and when the Jazz extend him – and they would if they thought enough of him to give him Sloan as an assistant – there would be lots of talk about how the real brains of the operation is an assistant and what’s going to happen in the near future when Jerry leaves.

    No, I think it would cause more problems than it would be worth. Sloan would be great in a consultant capacity, something informal enough to keep the spotlight off of him so it’s clear that, for better or worse, this is Ty’s show.

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