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Applying Jurgen Klinsmann's cold logic to the Utah Jazz

Published June 7, 2014 6:37 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

You want the truth?

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann put that to the test this week when he was asked if his team can win the 2014 World Cup.

"For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament," he told The New York Times. "Realistically, it is not possible."

You'd hope that's not a preview of his pregame speech for Ghana on June 16. But unless you believe the U.S. can tie or beat its opponents with a subpar effort, you have to admit that he's right.

Math says so.

If it would suffice for the U.S. to have even a "better-than-normal game" against each opponent — that is, playing better than they do half the time — the odds of the U.S. winning the Cup would be 128-1 (the odds of a coin landing on heads seven times in a row, or 0.5^7).

And merely "better-than-normal" won't always do for the likes of Germany, so however uninspiring, Klinsmann's bet is a safe one.

The Tribune's Aaron Falk and Tony Jones have spent this offseason poking, prodding, prying — praying to learn who would be the next Jazz head coach and which players general manager Dennis Lindsey might select in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Ultimately, though, fans won't be satisfied until they have the answer to another question: "When will the Jazz deliver a long-awaited championship?"

Here's how Klinsmann might see it:

If everything were even between them, each of the 30 NBA teams would enter the season with a 1 in 30 shot of winning a title.

Holding aloft the Larry O'Brien trophy in the next 15 years would then seem to be a 50-50 proposition, but some teams would likely win multiple titles before 2030, and more than half would win zero.

NBA fans with no title between now and 2030 would justifiably feel unlucky, but they wouldn't be unluckier than most.

By 2045 — when every team in this egalitarian NBA has had 30 chances at 30-1, when Jabari Parker is bearing down on 50, and when NASA expects to have sent a manned mission to Jupiter — there will still be a handful of teams without a title.

And, again: That's if everything were even.

It's not even.

Only eight teams have won an NBA title in the last 30 years. Sixteen teams have droughts of 30-plus years. Thirteen active teams have never won an NBA title, and seven have waited longer than the Jazz (40 years).

If we bring reality back into the equation — the reality that the NBA is very much unequal, with select franchises that can afford to pay the luxury tax and superstars who are drawn to big markets — you'd have to conclude that Utah is a favorite to be one of the teams that has still not won a title by 2045.

But don't expect Klinsmann to pity you.

The numbers say things haven't been so bad along the Wasatch Front in the last 30 years. Utah sports fans have been treated to an NCAA football championship, an NCAA men's basketball final, two NBA Finals appearances and one MLS Cup.

In those leagues, that's two of the last 108 title winners, and five of the last 216 finalists.

If you consider that fewer than 1 in 100 Americans are Utahns, the title gods have been generous here.

And if it's 2045 and we're still worried about whether the Jazz have won an NBA title or the U.S. has won a World Cup, and not disease, hunger or nuclear war — I've gotta say, I'll consider myself pretty lucky.

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper