General Manager Dennis Lindsey and the Utah Jazz decided Monday to not renew the contract of former head coach Ty Corbin. Lindsey and the Jazz immediately began the first true search for a head coach in the franchise’s 35-year history.
Hours after the news broke that the Jazz were searching for a head coach, two initial candidates were announced as front runners for the position: longtime CSKA Moscow coach Ettore Messina, and current San Antonio Spurs assistant Jim Boylen.
The news that Boylen might be one of Lindsey’s top candidates shocked many Jazz fans. Those in and around Salt Lake City vividly remember Boylen’s tenure as the head coach of the University of Utah Runnin’ Utes basketball program, with little to no appreciation for what he did during his time up on the hill. Many blame Boylen for the utter destruction of the program after his firing in 2011, after which the Utes would suffer a 6-25 record, the worst record in the long and prolific history of Utah basketball. Tempers have cooled now that new Runnin’ Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak has spearheaded the program’s resurgence, but some fans are still resentful of Boylen and want him nowhere near their beloved professional basketball team.
Pro: Boylen has seen success as an NBA assistant coach
Boylen’s first coaching position in the NBA was with the Houston Rockets, which is where he and Dennis Lindsey first formed their professional relationship. Boylen served as an assistant coach in Houston from 1992-2003 and was a part of some of the most successful Rocket teams. After being fired by the University of Utah in 2011, Boylen returned to the NBA to join Frank Vogel’s Indiana Pacers squad where he was an integral part of the Pacers return to prominence in the Eastern conference. He remained with the Pacers until 2013 when he took his current position with the Spurs. Based on his NBA experience, Boylen understands what it takes to win in this league.
Con: Boylen is unpopular among those in Salt Lake City
Like I previously stated, Boylen’s tenure at the University of Utah has left some lasting scars in the minds of many Utah basketball fans. Not every Utah Jazz fan happens to be a Runnin’ Utes fan, but those with allegiances to both might be conflicted by the hire.
Social media presences around Salt Lake City have already condemned the possible hiring of and some fans have even threatened to cancel their season tickets if Boylen does get the job. In a time where Lindsey is desperately trying to bring excitement and fan influence back to the Jazz organization, a hire like this could push the cause backwards.
Pro: Boylen has coached some of the league’s best big men
During his time in Houston, Boylen was the position coach for Rocket legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming. While in Indiana, Boylen aided in the development of Roy Hibbert and Paul George. Now in San Antonio, Boylen has made sure that “old man” Tim Duncan has stayed just as productive as ever in his 17th year in the league. There is no doubt that Boylen would bring some incomparable knowledge and experience to young Jazz big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, who are catalysts to the future success of the team.
Con: Boylen may lack the decorum of an NBA head coach
The University of Utah job was Boylen’s only previous head coaching experience. Boylen was very cordial and inspirational to players, students, alumni and other fans during his successful years with the Utes. Unfortunately, after two losing seasons, Boylen became argumentative with the local media and intolerable among some of his players, leading some (including Morgan Grim, Josh Sharp, and J.J. O’Brien) to transfer elsewhere with their remaining eligibility.
NBA coaches don’t have to do nearly the amount of babysitting that college coaches do on a normal basis, but Boylen would still be dealing with a very young Jazz team that doesn’t have the experience that Boylen’s other teams have had. The last thing this team needs is a coach that would deter them from wanting to play in Utah.
The coaching search is still ongoing for the Jazz and nothing has been set in stone as far as interviews for the job are concerned. Lindsey wants to hire a new coach quickly to get him acclimated to the situation and give him plenty of time to give his insights for the upcoming NBA draft and the general direction he wants to take the team in. Other former NBA coaches who are thought to be in the running for the Jazz job are former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, longtime Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, and former Rockets coach and current ESPN basketball analyst Jeff Van Gundy.
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