By NBA standards, the Utah Jazz are unfamiliar with losing seasons and coaching searches. But they are a reality of the league — and one usually follows the other.
On Monday, days after the conclusion of one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Jazz stepped into that relative unknown, announcing they would part ways with head coach Ty Corbin and begin searching for a replacement to help lead them back toward winning ways.
“This has not been an easy decision, but after a thorough review process, we as an organization feel that this is the best decision for our franchise moving forward,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said.
Corbin coached the Jazz to a 25-57 record this year — amassing the second-lowest win total since the franchise moved to Utah in 1979. In the three and a half seasons since taking over following Jerry Sloan’s abrupt resignation in 2011, Corbin compiled a 112-146 record.
He entered the season without a contract beyond the year and aware of the challenges ahead. The Jazz had let Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and a handful of other veteran free agents leave Utah in favor of developing the team’s youth.
“You want to have a fair shake and you want the best opportunity you can have to win,” Corbin said at the team’s locker clean-out day last week. “The organization decided to go in a different direction from the guys we had the year before. I knew it would be difficult. I said right from the beginning, no way when you change the roster like we changed is it good for a coaching staff, especially in the last year of a contract. … I would have liked for things to be different, be handled differently. But they weren’t. It is what it is.”
Through his agent, Corbin declined comment Monday.
The Jazz have had only seven head coaches in their history.
Their search for No. 8 will begin immediately, though no timeline for finding a replacement has been announced.
“Certainly it would be perfect if we found the right person in a short time frame,” Lindsey said. “But we need to find the right person. … We’re going to be really thorough in this process because it’s such a monumental decision.”
Lindsey added, “Literally we haven’t had one conversation with regard to names and criteria.”
But that hasn’t stopped potential candidates’ names from popping up. Already, the name of former University of Utah coach Jim Boylen has surfaced, owing largely to his connection with Lindsey. The two spent time on the Houston Rockets staff together.
In his three-plus seasons as the team’s bench boss, Corbin faced myriad challenges. He was abruptly thrust into the role when Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan resigned in February 2011, leaving Corbin to coach in a legend’s shadow.
“Following Coach Sloan … is like following John Wooden,” Lindsey acknowledged Monday.
To make matters worse, Corbin immediately saw a franchise point guard, Deron Williams, traded out of Utah for a young forward and draft picks.
The next season Corbin faced a lockout, but managed to help lead the Jazz to the playoffs. The postseason, however, wasn’t kind and the Jazz were swept by the Spurs. After narrowly missing out on another postseason trip last year, the Jazz opted to let several key free agents walk in favor of developing their younger players. The results, in terms of wins and losses, were disastrous.
Lindsey said the decision to part ways took into account the totality of Corbin’s run as head coach.
“It was a three-year decision,” Lindsey said.
And despite the difficulties, Lindsey disagreed with the notion that Corbin never received a fair shake.
“There’s a difference between tough circumstances and fair circumstances,” he said.
Lindsey and other Jazz officials praised Corbin for his professionalism.
“The decision to make impactful changes in our organization is never taken lightly,” Jazz CEO Greg Miller said in a statement. “Ty has always represented the Jazz franchise in a first-class manner both on the court and in the community. He did a wonderful job of building relationships with the players and encouraged their growth throughout the season. We wish Ty, Dante and their family nothing but the very best for their future.”
The GM declined to discuss in details the reason for parting ways, but Lindsey illuminated a few points.
“From 5,000 feet there are philosophical things. Sometimes you can have a philosophy that has great synergy but it’s just the wrong time for a marriage or a relationship,” Lindsey said. “Sometimes there are going to be differences of opinion whether it be personnel or what you’re doing with personnel. I think you have to assume there were some different thoughts and that’s one of the reasons we made the decision we made today.”
The team’s defensive struggles — ranking 30th out of 30 teams — were also likely a factor.
“Being a defensive program going forward is very important to who we are and what we want to be,” Lindsey said. “We want to establish that foundation.”
The Jazz started the year by winning just once in their first 15 games.
As players returned to health, the Jazz hit their stride heading into the All-Star break, playing just under .500 basketball for a 40-game stretch.
But after the break, the season caught up with the rebuilding franchise. The Jazz closed out the year by winning just four games in their final 25.
Tyrone Corbin, year-by-year
Corbin’s record as head coach of the Utah Jazz:
Season W-L Pct. Result
2010-11 8-20 .266 Missed playoffs
2011-12 36-30 .545 Playoffs, first round
2012-13 43-39 .524 Missed playoffs
2013-14 25-57 .305 Missed playoffs
Totals 112-146 .434