Monson: Jazz’s coach search is taking the long way home
By Gordon Monson
Tribune ColumnistFirst published May 15 2014 11:20AM
And, so, the silent roll of the Jazz’s Magical Mystery Tour of a coaching search continues.
Coming to take you away. Take you today.
Or take you tomorrow, or take you next week or next month or … take you, I dunno, while we’re young.
Let’s say it all plain here: Nobody on the outside knows nothing about what the Jazz are doing.
There’s only a presumption that they, themselves, know, but even that is unknown on account of the fact that nobody among a handful of confidants is talking about what’s happening. There are confirmations of little more than whispers behind closed doors.
One of the whisperers, Jazz president Randy Rigby, would sooner have disemboweled himself than offer up any clues on Wednesday. Asked about Chicago Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin and, then, John Stockton, Rigby said he would make no specific comment about individual candidates.
Speculation about Stockton has swirled for weeks, but it’s doubtful the former Jazz great would yet edge out of his considerable comfort zone of time spent with family. He hasn’t ruled out returning to the NBA as a coach, and he likely would be a preferred choice. But no club wants a team leader who is reluctant to lead — it’s hard to blow an uncertain trumpet — especially not a club like the Jazz, full of young players who need all the urgency an enthusiastic coach can give.
Even if the Jazz talk with Stockton, as it has been guessed they will, it might be done to use him in an advisory role. If Stockton really wants to coach, the Jazz should write him a large check and hire him — now. End of search. Whether he knows analytics from assists, it matters not at all. Those who say Stockton wouldn’t be a good selection because he has no experience on the bench probably never watched him play. For 19 years, the man saw plays on the court before anyone else saw them. Vision was never a problem. He could do the same from courtside.
But he’s not saying and neither are the Jazz.
Maybe Jerry Sloan would take over for a year, with Stockton as an assistant, then yield the wheel to John.
Other teams with head coaching vacancies are in the headlines every day — such as the Knicks, the Lakers, and the candidates to which they are linked. Golden State got their man, Steve Kerr, on Wednesday. The Jazz are invisible. Even the Timberwolves and the Cavs generate more flash and panache. The Pistons hired Stan Van Gundy earlier this week. Dennis Lindsey is still doing his due diligence.
The quiet way is the Jazz way. And maybe it’s a good way, but time is blowing by.
Rigby indicated the Jazz, after compiling a list of more than 20 original candidates, have started their interviewing. But their mode is deliberate. Their tour is taking the long way home. This is a hire they have to get right — and they know that. Rigby said money would not be an issue. The Jazz will pay what a great coach requires.
Some have guessed the Jazz are dragging anchor because a favored candidate is still coaching in the playoffs. If that candidate is, say, an assistant with the Spurs, they could be waiting for another six weeks. Yes, the Jim Boylen rumors are still floating around, although word has seeped out regarding the rough go the former Ute head coach had in Salt Lake City. Unlike Stockton’s near demigod status around here, a status that would bring with it a long honeymoon, Boylen would have no honeymoon. His stint would advance straight to real life.
There’s been chatter about Ettore Messina, the Euro legend. There have been guesses about Suns assistant Mike Longabardi.
But that’s what they are — chatter and guesses.
Huge decisions are coming straight at the Jazz, not the least of which is who they want to draft with their lottery pick, a position that will be determined next week. Getting a head coach’s opinion on that choice — and a whole lot of other choices — is pretty important. As significant as an owner’s influence is, a general manager’s influence is, it is the coach’s influence that is most impactful, especially when a new culture is to be established.
The gravity of the hire suggests the Jazz should go slow. The wrong hire here would set their plan back a fistful of years, years they cannot afford. They need a coach who can teach and organize and relate to and inspire young players who don’t even know yet who they are or what they can become. That’s why salary cannot be a roadblock. If the team is willing to pay a midlevel player four to seven million bucks a season, the coach charged with transforming the Jazz into a real contender must be valuable enough to deserve that same cake.
Still, time is short. The Jazz should be zeroing in on the kind of coach whose insight is needed ASAP.
Those offseason decisions — who to draft, who not to draft, who to retain, who not to retain, who to sign, who not to sign — and the desperate need for that new culture are on the porch. The Jazz may not want bold headlines now, but they certainly want them later. Getting the right coach is their top priority. But delaying that get for too long won’t help.
The Magical Mystery Tour bus had best get going.
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. Twitter: @GordonMonson.