Monson: Jazz should hire Karl Malone
NBA • Taking a risk on former great could have huge payoff.
Published: May 29, 2013 11:39AM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:32PM
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Tribune file photo Karl Malone talks to reporters about Jerry Sloan's resignation before the Jazz game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday, February 11, 2011.

Somebody suggested the other day that Jeff Hornacek, now the head coach of the Phoenix Suns, would or should hire Karl Malone as an assistant coach. Here’s a better idea: Ty Corbin, now with a huge hole on his staff, should beat Hornacek to it.

I know what you’re thinking.

Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

Bad idea.

Horrible idea.

Catastrophic idea.

I say it’s pure brilliance.

Get outside the box here, people. Blast through the confining boundaries of standard convention straight through to unlimited new horizons. Coach Malone is just what the Jazz need.

You know what I’m saying: Don’t mess with the wolverine.

Sure, there are risks involved in bringing the big fella back. Karl’s not exactly normal. He’s a little scatterbrained, like a terrier sitting on the front porch, looking one second at the school bus to the left and, then the next, checking out the milkman to the right. Heaven help us all when the schnauzer across the street gets loose in the yard.

Malone tends to get annoyed at small bits of disrespect, sometimes that only he can perceive. He can be particular — and privileged. When he was a player, as a part of the terms written into his deal, he insisted on having not just a bigger hotel room on roadies than other players, but also a fresh bowl of fruit provided.

Not sure that Corbin himself gets a fresh bowl of fruit. If he did, what would happen if Ty’s stack of seasonal berries was fresher or taller or sweeter than his assistant’s? There could be hell to pay.

On the other hand, for Corbin’s part, it would take and show great self-assuredness to bring in a presence like Malone. Could the head coach handle that kind of big-planet gravitational pull?

He would face the ever-present issue of Malone speaking forthrightly, even when situations are a tad delicate. Karl isn’t just a loose cannon, he’s a cannon completely on the loose.

He can blow up the room with verbal artillery about as well as anyone ever could. The man says what’s on his mind, whatever’s on his mind, and in the buttoned-up work environment created in the Jazz tradition, that could be trouble.

Everybody on the coaching staff, at least every one of the assistants, is supposed to be a good-soldier type, is supposed to labor diligently in the shadows, is supposed to keep his head down and quietly push the work forward.

Malone would be about as silent as the 1812 Overture.

There are also the issues of experience and commitment. Karl’s never really been a coach before. Could he do it now at a high level? In the past, he’s said he could. He’s said he would relish the challenge.

But he also said he’d like to run for governor, host a radio show, become a cop, be an actor, be a CEO, drive trucks, wrestle professionally, and become an airline pilot.

Would Malone be willing to do the steady work required of an assistant, day after night after day after night through an entire season, season after season? Or would he get frustrated, as former greats often do, with the slow progress of players who fall far short of the standard he set?

Channeling Karl here, let me say this about that, hopefully without doing a complete 360 or misconsrewing anything:

I don’t know. But what I do know is that Malone would light a fire under a bunch of young Jazz players, including two big men who have bright futures in the NBA — if, that is, they are brought along properly, if they are taught to post up down low, to battle for position and inflict their damage on opponents, if they recognize the need to develop midrange jumpers at the offensive end and to play tough, uncompromising defense at the other. Three more things the coach would teach them, lessons he learned and that eventually put him in the Hall of Fame: to work hard, rebound and run the floor.

If Karl Malone could accomplish those things for the Utah Jazz, even if he skipped some games or didn’t follow the traditional pay-your-dues-and-earn-your-way-up path of Jazz assistants, he would be worth all his idiosyncrasies, all his unorthodoxies, all his verbal bombs, all his presumption, in addition to that big bowl of seasonal fruit.

One other thing he would give the Jazz: a connection to their past. Embracing a great ghost is better than running from it, even if the thought of having that ghost around kind of scares the bejeebers out of everybody.

Hire the man, Ty. It’s the right move at the right time.

Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM, 1280 AM and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.