This move seems natural and almost inevitable, with Jeff Hornacek becoming the head coach of the franchise he once elevated as an outstanding player.
That’s Phoenix, not Utah.
In leaving the Jazz’s coaching staff to take over the Suns, Hornacek is returning to the organization that he helped climb out of depths in the 1980s, and is downtrodden again. So this is where it gets interesting: Hornacek and Tyrone Corbin are in fairly similar positions — or soon will be. The Suns are bad; the Jazz are doomed to get worse before they get better.
So we’ll find out who’s the better builder.
Hornacek’s new team went 25-57 in 2012-13, finishing 18 games behind the No. 9 Jazz in the Western Conference. The positive aspect is they may have hit the bottom already, and they can begin the recovery with the No. 5 pick in next month’s NBA Draft. The Jazz’s issue is how far they will sink before their own upward trend resumes.
And they’re sure to miss Hornacek. Quantifying the value of an assistant coach in the NBA is difficult, but there’s doubt that Hornacek aided in Gordon Hayward’s development — as much in terms of confidence and aggressiveness as shooting technique. Hayward’s improvement is evidence that Hornacek knows what he’s doing, and will succeed with a young, rebuilding team.
Hornacek is the first formerly great Jazz player of the Utah era to become an NBA head coach, distinguishing him from Marc Iavaroni, Larry Krystkowiak and Corbin (and not counting Adrian Dantley’s interim stint in Denver). Yet he never was a player who relied only on talent to become a star in the NBA. At his core, Hornacek is still the Iowa State walk-on, the second-round draft pick, the complementary player who grew into bigger and bigger roles in Phoenix, Utah and Philadelphia.
Watching him work in Phoenix will be fascinating. Jazz fans can only hope his success does not come at great expense to their team - as measured by how the Suns compete against the Jazz in the West and by how much his absence is noticed in Utah.
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