San Antonio • The shake-ups started almost immediately.
Just two weeks after sliding down the bench in February 2011 to take over for Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, new Utah Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin watched as his franchise point guard was traded for picks and a project. Two years later, after a pair of winning seasons — both of which ultimately ended in disappointment — Corbin again watched as his best players left, this time as free agency claimed four of his top five scorers.
From the outset, Corbin’s tenure has been marked by changes. So perhaps it’s unsurprising he says he remains unconcerned about the potential for one more.
“I’ve been doing this for so long … no,” he said when asked if he worries about what might come this offseason. “It is what it is. It will be what it will be when it get there.”
As they head into Sunday’s matchup with the Spurs, there are 16 games left in the Utah Jazz’s season, and after that, Corbin, a 10-year fixture on the team’s bench, will be without a contract. Management and the coach’s agent have remained tight-lipped when it comes to the coach’s future. And Corbin himself says he has not had talks with the Jazz front office about his status, nor does he plan to until the season ends.
Before the season, the sports-betting website Bovada set the odds at 9-to-4 — the second best of any coach in the NBA — that Corbin would be the first coach fired this season. Even so, it was difficult to imagine the Jazz, a franchise that has only had four head coaches in its 30-plus years in Utah, would pull the plug on a coach, when the struggles of a rebuilding year were expected. And the team has let Corbin play out the remainder of his deal, despite a 22-44 record.
How the odds stack up for Corbin going forward remains to be seen. And as the end of a disappointing season approaches, there will be plenty for Jazz ownership and general manager Dennis Lindsey to consider when it comes to the team’s head coach:
• While the Jazz have boasted a steady coaching situation in a league where upheaval is the norm, employing just four head coaches in more than 30 seasons in Utah, Corbin came up under Sloan and then-general manager Kevin O’Connor, not Lindsey.
• Corbin’s tenure has been marked by frequent turnover, including the trade of All-Star point guard Deron Williams in 2011 and the parting of ways with a half dozen key free agents last summer. Nevertheless, Corbin will have about 250 games as a head coach on his resume (his current record is 109-133) by season’s end.
• This season, with a number of young players taking on expanded roles, the Jazz have the league’s eighth-worst offense (scoring 100.5 points per 100 possessions), and the league’s worst defense (allowing 108 points per 100 possessions).
• There have been 30 double-digit losses this year, including 11 by 20 or more points.
A rebuild is tough on any coach, let alone one in the final year of a contract.
When Jazz leaders discussed the strategy for this season, said Jazz president Randy Rigby, all major stakeholders had a voice. The coaches were harder to convince.
“Their careers are on the line here too,” Rigby said.
The challenge of starting over is one reason Clippers coach Doc Rivers left Boston last summer for Los Angeles.
“It’s really hard,” he said. “It’s nothing [Corbin is] not doing. It’s more that they’ve decided to rebuild. I hope everything turns out for him because I think he’s terrific. He works hard at it. You know, it’s tough when you don’t have the horses.”
When Corbin was not given an extension last summer, it put him in position to be perceived as a lame duck. But players say that has not been the case this year.
“That has never been a question. I hope it’s not been a question since the start of the season,” said forward Marvin Williams, a free agent to be. “He’s a guy you want to play for. You want to see him succeed because he wants you to succeed. … He’s our coach right now and hopefully he’ll be our coach in the future. If he comes back, it will definitely be a huge factor for me in my decision. I definitely enjoy playing for him.”
A loss to the Spurs on Sunday would mathematically eliminate the Jazz from the postseason with a month still to play. But as a frustrating year, the Jazz’s worst in a decade, draws to a close, Corbin said he remains focused on helping the franchise develop a winner — and Corbin’s players say they remain committed to him.
“Got to when somebody’s fighting for their life,” said third-year guard Alec Burks.
Ty Corbin’s record as Jazz head coach
Took over for Jerry Sloan on Feb. 10
Led Jazz to playoffs in a lockout shortened season, but lost in the first round to the Spurs.
Narrowly missed out on a second straight postseason appearance.
On pace for the franchise’s worst season in a decade.
Jazz at Spurs
O At AT&T Center
Tipoff • Sunday, 5 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 97.5 FM, 1280 AM
Records • Jazz 22-44; Spurs 49-16
About the Jazz • Have lost three straight games and eight of their last nine. … Forward Marvin Williams’ status is still unknown as the team awaits the results of an MRI on his lower back. … Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter combined for 29 points and 24 rebounds Friday against the Clippers.
About the Spurs • Winners of nine straight. … Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker should be well rested after logging 15 minutes or less in a blowout win over the Lakers on Friday. … Parker leads the team in scoring and assists.