There were times during last year’s 43-39 season that Tyrone Corbin would look behind the Utah Jazz bench and wonder what the white-haired man who used to sitting in Section 7, usually staring back through wire-framed glasses, would do.
Now he can just ask him. Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan was introduced Thursday as a senior basketball adviser, an undefined role that allowed him to rejoin the Jazz after abruptly resigning as head coach in 2011 and paving the way for Corbin.
“I wished I could have called him down to sit beside me at times,” Corbin said, sitting beside his longtime mentor at the Jazz’s practice facility Thursday morning. The last time they shared the dais, Sloan’s eyes were red and he fought back tears. It was February 2011 and he announced his sudden departure from the team. Since then, he has been courted by nearly every team with a coaching vacancy. He said Thursday he always hoped that a new role with the Jazz would materialize.
“I got spoiled with this organization,” he said. “It’s a great place to work and a great place for me to be.”
He added: “I always had the Jazz on my mind.”
And it was apparently mutual. Corbin said he and Sloan talked about the possibility of some kind of reunion for two years. This spring, Sloan began assisting with pre-draft workouts and attending the draft combine in Chicago with general manager Dennis Lindsey.
Earlier this summer, Sloan was a candidate to coach in Milwaukee, but withdrew from consideration and the job eventually went to Larry Drew. Along with Karl Malone, two of the most prominent figures in Jazz history are once again affiliated with the franchise. Malone was hired in a loose capacity in late May to work with young big men Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
Sloan’s role is far less clear.
“I don’t know what this job is going to entail or how it’s going to evolve,” he said, “but we’ll work at it and see what we can bring.”
The former coach’s primary concern about returning to the organization was that he would step on Corbin’s toes. That won’t be a problem, said the Jazz coach, entering his third full season.
“He can’t hurt my feelings,” Corbin said. “I respect everything he has to say, and if I’m screwing up I want him to tell me. ... I expect him to do it and he will.”