Clearly, this is no longer your father’s Utah Jazz.
Even typing the words feels a bit strange since the entire organization has long prided itself on being as stable and unchanging as the hunks of granite that form the Salt Lake Temple.
But apparently, given a little time and the right set of circumstances, even something as solid as granite can change shape. After all, just look at what happened Tuesday morning at the Zions Bank Basketball Center.
That’s when the Jazz introduced new general manager Dennis Lindsey, a 43-year-old former assistant GM with the San Antonio Spurs.
With Lindsey coming aboard, former GM Kevin O’Connor retains his role as the Jazz’s executive vice president of basketball operations.
O’Connor had occupied the GM position for 13 previous seasons, working closely with Hall-of-Fame coach Jerry Sloan and his trusted assistant, former Weber State head coach Phil Johnson.
Of course O’Connor, Sloan and Johnson were always a phone call away from longtime Jazz owner Larry H. Miller.
Together with Hall of Fame players John Stockton and Karl Malone, the Jazz developed the granite-like reputation for being one of professional sports’ most static franchises.
But these days, Miller — who died of complications from Type 2 diabetes in February 2009 — is no longer the patriarch. Sloan and Johnson — who resigned in February of 2011 — no longer call plays from the bench; and now O’Connor will no longer oversee the day-to-day operations of the team.
What’s more, the roster itself, once led by Stockton and Malone and later All-Star Deron Williams, has been almost completely turned over. In their place is a rather young group of role players, scrappers and budding stars, each hoping to form a team greater than the sum of its parts.
“The NBA is becoming more complex and more competitive by the day,” Lindsey said. “Kevin and I and the rest of the management team and scouts — the coaching staff, the medical staff, the (public relations team), the whole organization — we’re a group and that’s how we’re going to approach this.”
Although still running on the same fundamental principles of hard work, consistency and family loyalty, the new-look Jazz also have a new feel. On Tuesday, Lindsey spoke of strange things called “analytics” and “medical analysis” and talked about the need for specific baselines where by players’ development can be measured.
While there were certain words Sloan used regularly, those previously mentioned weren’t part of his vocabulary.
Because their way of doing things was consistently good and largely successful, I’ll pay respect to the old regime. However, I’ll also declare these new changes to be exactly what the team needs as it moves forward.
It’s head coach Tyrone Corbin’s team now, with the likes of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors serving as the faces of the franchise. Gail Miller — Larry’s widow — and his son, CEO Greg Miller, now finance the operation.
O’Connor, who has proven himself to be a stalwart executive, will remain in position to make key decisions along with Lindsey and player personnel director Walt Perrin. However, they’ll use new data and ideas to make those decisions.
This is a good thing, Jazz fans. This new era will bring the franchise in line with the rest of the league while maintaining those granite values set forth by Miller and Sloan, Stockton and Malone.
In that regard, perhaps they still are your father’s Utah Jazz. The difference is, they’ve moving into a new age and they’re poised to become even more successful.