Thursday , May 15, 2014 - 5:17 PM
Admit it, you smiled.
Your heart beat a little faster.
You walked a little taller.
Admit it, Utah Jazz fans, the very idea of John Stockton, decked out in a crisp new suit and a tasteful tie, walking the sidelines at EnergySolutions Arena, made you … giddy.
Two days ago, ESPN began spinning news that the Jazz planned to speak with their beloved Hall of Fame point guard about possibly becoming their new head coach. The story broke here in Utah much earlier and, in fact, Stockton’s name seemed to surface just seconds after the Jazz announced Tyrone Corbin wasn’t coming back.
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein wrote: Sources say the Jazz are likely to sit down with a handful of potential candidates this week at the league's annual pre-draft camp in Chicago as part of an introductory round of interviews. In April, Jazz team president Randy Rigby told 1280 AM in Utah that the team's "exhaustive" search to find a successor to Corbin would eventually feature more than 20 candidates.
And he added: The assumption in coaching circles is that Stockton, who was fiercely private as a player and has remained so in retirement, would balk at the media demands on coaches as much as anything about the job. But Stockton also is seen in some corners as a coaching natural after spending 19 seasons, all with the Jazz, as a peerless coach on the floor who ranks No. 1 in league history with 15,806 career assists.
The truth of it is, Stockton’s name has been on the team’s wish list for years. The idea of the franchise’s greatest point guard – the NBA’s all-time assists leader – someday replacing Jerry Sloan as head coach felt like sheer kismet. But he never much cared for dealing with the media or fans during his playing days and at times he seemed almost reclusive. So as much as the Jazz and their fans may have fantasized about seeing Stockton on sidelines, it always seemed like an impossible dream.
Today, that pipe dream seems like it could become a reality, though still very much an outside possibility.
Could John Stockton really become the team’s next head coach?
Perhaps a more important question is, Do the Jazz really want Stockton to be their next head coach?
The easy answer is, yes, of course.
To have the franchise’s Hall of Fame star as its head coach, directing its young players, drawing up plays, calling timeouts, carving up minutes and setting rotations, would be a no-brainer decision. On the heels of an ugly season in which the Jazz stumbled along in an effort to win by losing, to then announce Stockton as head coach would feel like a healing salve.
But I wonder what general manager Dennis Lindsey thinks about the idea?
Lindsey appeared on ESPN’s coverage of the 2014 NBA draft combine Thursday morning and offered predictably vague answers about the Jazz’s draft plans. However, when it came to the one question about Stockton, he offered a Heisman Trophy-style stiff arm.
“Yeah, we’ll have no comment on the coaching search and selection,” he said.
Look, even if he wanted to make it happen, it’s not like Lindsey was going to choose that moment to beg Stockton to come back to the Jazz. Thankfully, he doesn’t work that way. But beyond that, he has been given the keys to the Jazz kingdom. He has been tasked with drawing the blueprints and reconstructing the basketball side of the business.
Wisely, he says all the right things when it comes to Stockton and Sloan and all the other pieces of the franchise’s great history. I think he wants to give deference to those heirlooms, and he absolutely should.
However, I believe he wants to hire HIS guy, not YOUR guy … not OUR guy.
Assuming Stockton – or even Sloan, for that matter – is even interested in leaving his carefully-guarded new life to rejoin the NBA circus, I can’t see why Lindsey would want to surrender so much of his own authority to a coach who casts an enormous shadow.
I’m not saying Stockton would willfully cause trouble, I’m saying for Lindsey it might feel a little bit like sending your new wife on a business trip with her old boyfriend.
And, hey, that’s nothing to smile about.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo
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