With time ticking down until tipoff Monday night, Tyrone Corbin stood in a corner of EnergySolutions Arena reading over the handwritten notes in a card delivered by a group of Jazz fans.
It was a card of thanks.
Could it also have been a goodbye?
After spending the last 10 years as a member of the Jazz’s coaching staff, Corbin heads into Wednesday night’s season finale in Minnesota knowing that it could be his last as the team’s head coach. He is without a contract after July, and with a record of 24-57 this season, questions about his future abound.
For now, Corbin isn’t ready to answer them.
“I don’t know if that’s a good question to ask right now,” Corbin said when asked about his future and takeaway from a difficult season, following Monday night’s 119-104 loss to the Lakers. “It’s a question to be asked. It’s a question I have to ask myself. And it’s a question I have to get set on where I go from here for me. It’s been an interesting year. I have a lot of evaluating to do that I want to do for myself and figure out what’s my next step.”
In three and a half seasons since taking over for Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, Corbin has amassed a record of 111-146, taking the Jazz to the playoffs once and narrowly missing out on a second trip last year. And with a game left this year, he’s not ready to entertain thoughts that Monday’s home finale was his last home game as the Jazz’s head coach.
“I’m not thinking about it right now,” he said, brushing off a question about the possibility. “No.”
As they have publicly throughout the season, players went to bat for Corbin and his staff this week.
“Ty’s a good guy,” said forward Derrick Favors. “Ever since I’ve been here he’s helped me out with a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff y’all don’t see out there on the court. He helped me out with growing as a player and growing as a man.”
Asked if he wanted Corbin back as head coach next year, Favors said, “Yeah. I hope so. But that’s not my decision.”
Rookie point guard Trey Burke also advocated for his coach.
“People knock on him, [but] I definitely think he’s done a good job motivating us,” Burke said. “Bottom line is we’re a young team. We didn’t have the year a lot of people expected us to have. But I definitely think the future’s bright.”
It hasn’t been the year Corbin expected, though it’s been something he anticipated could happen after the Jazz let key free agents — including Paul Millsap, who would go on to be an All-Star in the East, and Al Jefferson, who has helped spark a turnaround in Charlotte — walk in July.
“No way this is good for the coaches,” Corbin told 1280 The Zone on Tuesday, recalling his feelings on the offseason moves.
In a league where coaches take the fall for failures, he might be right. The Jazz have 24 wins on the year, matching the lowest total since the franchise moved to Utah in 1979. The rebuilding Jazz rank dead last in defense and have lost 21 of their last 24 games.
The Jazz will finish out the year Wednesday night in Minnesota and will then return to Salt Lake City to clean out their lockers and have exit interviews on Thursday morning.
After that, Corbin’s summer plans become less clear.
“Take some time to decompress a little bit and get out of it a little bit,” he told the radio station. “I think it will be good for me especially to relax a little bit before we sit down and talk and decide what’s best for everybody going forward.”
Jazz at Timberwolves
P At Target Center. Tipoff • 6 p.m. MDT
TV • Root Sports. Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 24-57, Wolves 40-41
Season series • Wolves lead, 3-0
Last meeting • Wolves, 121-104 (Feb. 22)
About the Jazz • They have lost 20 of their last 23 games, including five straight. ... F Gordon Hayward can become the first Jazz player since Pete Maravich in 1976-77 to average 16 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season. He needs seven points and four rebounds in the final game.
About the Wolves • They need a win to finish .500 ... Have never swept a season series from Utah but have won this year by 15, 17 and 28 points. ... They come off a 130-120 loss at Golden State.