Rebuilding Lessons from the 76ers?

April 1st, 2014 | by Laura Thompson
AP Photo - Rick Bowmer

AP Photo – Rick Bowmer

This season has been a very interesting one within Jazz fandom. There are often two factions: those who want wins regardless, believing that a winning culture is important, contagious, and essential to keeping fans coming to games, and those who want losses—and a top draft pick as a result—regardless. There are those who are fine with the team’s recent defensive struggles because it means that, perhaps, that’s one step closer to Tyrone Corbin’s last month as head coach of the Utah Jazz 1. There are others who see improvements in Corbin’s minutes distributions 2 and see how his strengths lie in keeping the locker room together, even amidst a rollercoaster season with many lows and few highs.

For those where rebuilding and tanking might seem synonymous, a couple of articles on the 76ers and their recent (and somewhat chronic) struggles seemed to sting a bit, because what some Jazz fans have been asking for—strategic moves, short-term pain for long-term gain, etc.—are exactly what the 76ers have done, and done well. 3

One point of contention for some Jazz fans has been Corbin’s defensiveness and prickly-ness when asked any questions about analytics, playing time, minutes distribution, and the ever-ongoing “experience vs. youth” debate. Such prickliness was never made more starkly clear to me than when Brett Brown, head coach of the 76ers and a long-time assistant of Gregg Popovich, was asked similar questions recently, responding in a very matter-of-fact, long-term thinking sort of way:

“Despite the mounting losses and the eroding confidence in the club’s locker room these days, first year head coach Brett Brown fully admits he understood these were some of the lows he expected to encounter when he was hired by the organization last summer.

“This is not slit-your-wrist time. This is not even close to that,” Brown told Del Lynam of Comcast Sports. ”This is about building a program and understanding the short-term pain for a lot of long-term gain. To truly rebuild and grow something is going to take three to five years. That is just the way it goes. It is too talented a league and too well-coached. The experiences we are going through now will be distant memories when these guys start getting older. They will find positives in this season and Michael Carter-Williams will be better for it.

“I’ve been asked by so many people, ‘Why would you take the job and screw up your coaching percentage?’ As if I care about that. I knew what I was getting into.”

There are multiple things that stand out to me here. One, it’s pretty remarkable to see a coach who understands the vision of management and is willing to completely buy in to it. He recognizes that building a championship team—remember his experience within the Spurs organization—isn’t an overnight thing. Two, clearly management has let him know that they have a long-term plan in place, and they’ve given him enough assurance with the job he’s doing so that he feels confident he’ll be around for 3-5 years to see this project through. How many coaches will talk about short-term pain for long-term gain? Three, he’s willing to give Michael Carter-Williams the time and the space he needs in order to work through rookie walls, rookie struggles, rookie growing pains. He knows MCW will be better off with significant minutes: he’s leading rookies in minutes per game at 34.7.

Let’s say, theoretically, that Ty Corbin had said each of those things Brown did when asked such questions by either local reporters or national reporters. If he said those things, and did those things, would he be feeling a little bit less heat from the fans (assuming he feels any of the heat from fans to begin with)? If he were less defensive, less prickly, would it help some of the PR battle he’s been facing this year? If both his actions and his actions aligned more closely with what management laid out earlier this year—discipline, defense, and development—like Brown has, would a little less vitriol be directed his way?

As it stands, it feels like a pretty strong disconnect between what rebuilding fans were hoping for, what management seemed to set up, and what we’ve been seeing as fans. So, once again theoretically, if you were a 76ers fan and you were facing a near-record-breaking losing streak, would you be down in the dumps? Or would you be hopeful because you see part of the plan in place for a top draft pick in a strong draft?

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
Laura Thompson

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8 Comments

  1. cw says:

    The Corbin/management strategy was laid out right here in excerpts from a Corbin interview. Basically he said that they believed that young players developed best in a real world NBA environment where you work for minutes, tried to win, etc… You can argue that this is not the best way to develop young players but it’s definitely a reasonable theory, and a reasonable theory is all that you can hope for because know one has proven that there is one correct way to develop young players.

    So, they have theory in place, Corbin is following it, the only way it is different from Brown is that the angry fans who want the young gusy to play 48 min. have either not heard that interview or reject the premise.

  2. Timothy says:

    I wanted the Jazz to get at least 25 wins this season, but we’ll give them a break since Trey Burke was out for 12 games, with John Lucas running the offense.
    It’s wrong to want the Jazz to lose. You want them to win every game they can. This year is different. We want the young guys to take control and see how well they can play, and determine how good they can be in the future, and ultimately decide if they are worth keeping.
    So it’s okay for them to lose a lot this year because they are really young. But they will rebuild faster if their current core five win games and do well. It’s not faster to throw all but two good players away and hope ping-pong balls give you a top pick. That’s what Philadelphia is doing. They threw away everyone but Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, and Thaddeus Young.

    • Spencer says:

      I agree Timothy,

      I think the rebuild is going as well as could be expected with the possible exception of Hayward’s confidence issues, and the sheer lack of defense. I think the Jazz are still as likely as any team in the league to be a championship contender with their current roster and picks. I prefer our five young guys to any group in the league (3yrs experience or less).

      • Timothy says:

        Yeah. I heard these guys on 97.5 THE ZONE raving about Favors’ potential. They said he could be like Kevin Garnett at the very best. And Kanter will be a solid 15 points/10 rebounds guy as soon as he becomes an above-average defender. Throw in a top 5 pick that could turn into a superstar, and the Jazz are set up best for the future out of the whole NBA.

  3. Justin says:

    If you consider the previous two seasons under Corbin you will notice that he faced significant challenges. These include the lockout and no outside shooting the first as well as questionable inside D and PG issues such as health and talent during both. Despite those challenges he provided two winning play off run seasons including one appearance. That is far above average for a rookie/2nd year coach. This year he was not provided the tools to succeed on top of once again having our PG on the DL for a significant spell. You cannot measure one’s talent if they do not have the necessary tools. To correctly assess Corbin’s growth as a head coach we need to see him perform with the talent to compete which will hopefully be next season. I believe if we can add a legit lotto pick and use the freed up money wisely to compliment our young core we will soon see that Corbin is indeed the right coach for us.

    • Tyler says:

      A coach’s talent is measured by the production of his players regardless of injuries. A good coach gets 110% out of his players. Corbin can’t get 9 lottery players to win 25 games. Sloan got a bunch of misfits to nearly a .500 season.

      Corbin has been tested and failed miserably. FIRE CORBIN. FIRE KOC.

  4. Aaron says:

    Yes, I think that embracing legitimate questions would have earned him some points, but his record on defense, which was one of the barometers they publicly said he’d be judged on, speaks for itself. Corbin is not the worst coach in the NBA, doesn’t deserve quite the level of hate he’s gotten, and it has been a less than ideal situation, but he’s not our guy. Both on his weird rotation patterns and on our terrible defense, and considering that he’s gone through the entire season as a lame duck with no reassurances from the front office, it’s pretty clear that the answer to both “should he be back?” and “will he be back?” are both no.

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