Monson: Jim Boylen to kill — err, coach — the Jazz?
Published: April 22, 2014 12:27PM
Updated: April 23, 2014 12:27PM
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Jim Boylen, coach of the Utah men's basketball team, was fired Saturday after posting his second losing season in a row. (Tribune file photo)

Ball didn’t go in the hoop.

Ball didn’t go in the hoop.

It would be almost cool if Dennis Lindsey actually hired Jim Boylen as the Jazz’s next head coach, just in an up-yours kind of way. It would be unbelievable, but cool. Bizarre, but cool. Risky and unwise, but cool. A bad trip down memory lane … no, a skid mark down memory lane, but cool. I’d welcome him back just for the storyline — plus, the man owes me breakfast — in the nanosecond it took Enes Kanter to fire up an ill-advised jumper that caromed hard off the rim.

Ball didn’t go in the hoop.

That, of course, was the problem the first time around, when Boylen coached the Utes from 2007 to 2011 before being fired after two consecutive losing seasons at Utah, being shown the door while being paid a truckload of cash.

Ball almost never went in the hoop.

But it is said now that Lindsey loves the Spurs assistant. Since being given the heave-ho at Utah, Boylen hooked on at Indiana under Frank Vogel and then at San Antonio under Gregg Popovich, where he’s supposedly done great work as an assistant. Before he arrived in Salt Lake City the first time, he had crossed paths with Lindsey while working for the Houston Rockets. Apparently, Boylen and Lindsey are tight.

I’d take Boylen, too — if Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili came with him.

If his work as an NBA assistant were the only evidence, Boylen would be a terrific candidate to replace Ty Corbin. He’s enthusiastic and still fairly young. Other than gutting the Ute program, he seems like a good guy. He reportedly did some fine big-man coaching with Yao Ming and Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston. And anyone who earns the respect of Popovich must have something to offer.

But his time at Utah, his only time as a head coach, makes me believe Ettore Messina is a much better choice, and I know nothing about the European. Boylen’s run with the Utes cannot be easily erased or ignored. That program was a steaming heap under him. Over his final two seasons, the Utes went 27-35, and players were jumping off as though the program were an exploding oilrig. For Lindsey to ask basketball fans here to simply blot all of that out while the Jazz attempt to stir excitement among patrons while suffering through a rebuild, all with the same head coach who guided a proud Ute program into a burning ditch, is a steep, steep request.

Ball didn’t go in the hoop.

But it was more than just that. Fans didn’t go to the games. The Huntsman Center back then was an empty barn. It’s just now coming to life under Larry Krystkowiak — three seasons later. Is Boylen really the coach you want to put in charge of what could be the most critical Jazz renovation since John Stockton and Karl Malone left?

A couple of Boylen images are burned into my consciousness. One was when he was coaching the slumping Utes against Wyoming in a 2008 Mountain West Conference game in Laramie. Utah was down eight, and in the closing seconds, a Cowboy player punctuated the outcome with a huge alley-oop dunk. Boylen went berserk, chucking F-bombs in all directions, especially at Wyoming’s coach, and complaining about it for days, calling the move classless and saying: “We’ll see them again. … That’s what’s great about league play. But, you know, we’re going to run our program with class and we’re going to do it right.”

Three things: 1) The dunk wasn’t that egregious; 2) Boylen was throwing up a smoke screen when he should have been more concerned about coaching his own team; and 3) Nothing says class like spouting profanities like water out of a fire hose.

Ball didn’t go in the hoop.

Boylen had a tendency to swing a hammer at problems that might have been better solved with subtlety and savvy. He may have been smart, but he coached with a Cro-Magnon Man style. He was a football coach in a basketball coach’s Armani suit. He talked about toughness, but he struggled to motivate and elevate his players to their highest levels.

When he infamously fired off on a student reporter who asked him during a postgame press conference how he felt about his team missing its first 12 shots in a loss to BYU, and then on me for stepping in to ask what caused the inefficiency, he said …

Ball didn’t go in the hoop.

He also said, among other things: Nice of you to show up.

Nobody showed up for Ute games back then.

He and I laughed about that exchange later. He asked me to go to breakfast with him so he could properly apologize, which he did when we dined together at a Salt Lake café. The only problem, when the check came, he went to pull out his wallet. He paused and then said, oh, man, he’d forgotten it. So, I paid for him so he could apologize to me over eggs and waffles. Later, on a different occasion, he introduced me to his wife and kids. He seemed like a nice guy.

And it would be a nice story — a cool one — if he came back to the place where he failed as a college head coach to become a successful NBA head coach. Cool for him to make good in a place he formerly coached bad. It would be cool, but for the ever-analytical Lindsey, not a strong percentage play, not the way to bet, because … well, you know.

Ball didn’t go in the hoop.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone.