It’s been six days since the Utah Jazz announced that they would not renew the contract of former head coach Ty Corbin. The coaching search has been in full swing since then, with names like Jim Boylen, Ettore Messina and Jeff Van Gundy being thrown into the rumor mill for the position.
Last Thursday, Spencer Checketts, host of Salt Lake City’s 1280 “The Zone” radio show, announced via his twitter feed that another name had been added to the potential candidate pool, one whose name still reverberates off of the majestic Wasatch Mountains into the ears and hearts of Jazz fans across the state. That man … John Stockton.
For the past 11 years, Stockton has enjoyed his retirement in the solitude of his quiet home in Spokane, WA. Far away from the prying eyes of the league and his legion of fans, Stockton enjoyed being with his family and watching his two sons play the game that turned him into a basketball icon. His elder son, Michael, returned to his father’s stomping grounds in Salt Lake City to play college ball for Westminster College; while his younger son, David, played at Gonzaga, his dad’s alma mater.
Now that his kids are out of the house, his body and mind are well rested and his life has become simply ordinary, it seems to be the perfect time for Stockton to come back to the game and coach the team that made him a living legend.
By no means has Stockton clamored to return to the NBA as a coach, that’s never been his style. Stockton rejected the Jazz’s coaching proposal when Jerry Sloan abruptly resigned in the middle of the 2010-11 season, but he has not said no to any rumors of him becoming coach this time around. Dennis Lindsey is going to need finesse to bring Stockton back into the fold; he and the Jazz don’t want to whiff another opportunity like they had with Stockton’s former teammate Jeff Hornacek, who was a coach of the year candidate with the Phoenix Suns this past season.
Although Stockton has never coached at such a high level, there is tremendous upside to him being named the Jazz skipper. Obviously, Stockton would become an instantaneous fan favorite across the state, with number 12 jersey sales rising higher than they are even now. He would also bring life to an organization and fan base that has lost its luster and vigor during the Corbin era, filling up those bright green seats that seemed so prevalent inside the Energy Solutions Arena this past season.
Most importantly, hiring Stockton makes sense from a personnel standpoint. Jazz guards Trey Burke and Alec Burks both worked out with Stockton in Washington during the previous offseason, and both came back to tell the Salt Lake City media how much they learned from the NBA all-time assists leader. Stockton could be the mentor that many of the young Jazz players need to further develop, and he could also be the answer to solving the Jazz’s free agent dilemma. Although it’s doubtful that swingman Gordon Hayward would leave town as a restricted free agent, hiring Stockton would probably eliminate all notions of his departure. Stockton could also attract that one big name free agent that the Jazz are so desperate for this offseason, adding to the young talent that makes up the Jazz roster.
The coaching search is still ongoing, and anyone who knows John Stockton also knows that he usually prefers to stay hidden away like the hermit crab in the fish tank of the NBA. The next seven days will most likely be the most crucial time for Lindsey and the Jazz as they continue their search for a long-term head coach. Here’s to hoping that Stockton, much like his buzzer beating shot against the Rockets in ’97, takes the chance, and drains it.
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