It took awhile, but Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin finally had the opportunity to fully prepare his team for an NBA season.
"This has been more normal," Corbin said recently, after putting his players through a workout at the Jazz's practice facility.
"You need time to prepare. You need time to get familiar with the guys and for them to get familiar with you. It just hasn't worked out that way for us."
Corbin took charge of the Jazz 18 months ago, yet this has been his first "normal" preseason as Utah's coach.
Corbin replaced Jerry Sloan on Feb. 10, 2011, after the Hall of Fame coach and lead assistant Phil Johnson abruptly resigned after 23 years on the job. Amid the turmoil, which included the trade of All-Star point guard Deron Williams two weeks after Sloan's resignation, Corbin had little chance to succeed.
"It's where we were as a franchise," he said. "Everybody has to go through changes at some point. This is a great organization that likes to stay where they are. They've had great success doing that. [But] time always catches up with you at some point and you have to make changes."
Utah won only eight of its final 28 games under Corbin and missed the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Last season? Another aberration.
A labor dispute between the NBA and its players lasted into December. When it finally was settled, teams held two-week training camps, played two exhibition games and embarked on a compacted 66-game schedule that tested the physical and emotional limits of players and coaches.
Yet the Jazz survived. Despite a 3-11 stretch at midseason and a public feud with veteran Raja Bell, Corbin guided Utah to a 36-30 record, including five straight wins down the stretch. The Jazz earned the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Although they were swept in the first round by San Antonio, the Jazz widely were heralded as overachievers, to Corbin's credit.
"Last year was a very unusual season for every club," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. "You throw a bunch of young players together with a fairly new coach, and the thing I was impressed with watching and reflecting on last season is that Ty was able to keep the group together."
This season, however, things are different.
With a full preseason as the foundation, Corbin and the Jazz must handle the pressure of greater expectations. Nobody thinks Utah will win a championship, but most would call missing the playoffs a disappointment.
"The expectations of everybody ourselves included have increased a little bit," Corbin said. "But we're still a young team. We've gotten better, but the league's gotten better, too. So we'll just have to see what happens."
If the Jazz fare well, it could have considerable impact on Corbin's career, since the Jazz own an option on his contract next season.
"I don't even think about it," he said. "Do your job and all that stuff will take care of itself."
Corbin's Jazz coaching record
Season W L Pct. Playoffs
2010-12 8 20 .285 Did not qualify
2011-12 36 30 .545 Lost in first round
Totals 44 50 .468 0-4