In first full season as coach, Corbin still pines over details

Dec 13 2012 - 5:40pm

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Aside from the fact he spent two season playing for them in the late 1980s, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin and the Phoenix Suns are forever linked.

Now in his third year as the Jazz's head man, Corbin was one of Jerry Sloan's assistants in early February 2011. Not long after a Feb. 9 home loss to the Chicago Bulls, Corbin was busily preparing a scouting report on the Suns -- Utah's next opponent on the schedule -- when he got a call from Jazz vice president of basketball operations, Kevin O'Connor. O'Connor was calling to offer more responsibility coupled with more gray hair and an endless supply of sleepless nights.

He was calling to offer him the head coaching job.

"The way it happened, just in preparation, (it went from) assistant one day to head coach the next day without any forewarning," said Corbin, who'll lead the Jazz against the Suns tonight in Phoenix.

"I think it was a little different animal because you go from preparing for Phoenix, which was the game I was scouting and getting ready for, to actually executing the scouting report and making all the decisions of it."

Following that loss to the Bulls, Sloan, then 68, decided he'd had enough of trying to cajole his team through a difficult season. He got into an intense shouting match with point guard Deron Williams at halftime and by 11 the following morning he decided to step down.

Longtime assistant Phil Johnson followed, leaving the No. 1 job to Corbin if he wanted it.

He did.

Although he had interviewed for head coaching jobs in both Phoenix and Chicago in previous season, Corbin remained with the Jazz, unsure of when -- or if -- he'd ever get the chance to lead the team. He imagined he'd be a head coach someday, he just didn't think it would be Feb. 11, 2011 ... against the Suns.

Corbin said he quickly learned it was his responsibility to implement scouting reports, he had to approve travel plans as well as times for practices and shootarounds.

"It's just so (much) more responsibility than you have as a head coach compared to being an assistant coach," he said.

Corbin is more than 100 games into his career but thanks to last season's lockout, he has yet to coach a full 82-game regular-season schedule.

He got the Jazz into the playoffs at the end of the truncated 2011-12 season and so far has them in good position in the Midwest Division this season.

But a little more than a quarter of the way through, he said he still worries about details and frets over not getting his players enough minutes.

And he's learned to sleep a lot less.

"Unfortunately, you can't just turn it off," he said. "That's one of the things I first talked to coach (Sloan) about when I first took over. It's difficult to for anybody just to turn it off once the game's over."

Backup point guard Earl Watson, a 12-year veteran, was on the team when Corbin went from being an assistant to the main man. And he's seen the transformation.

"Young coaches, they have to figure their way out," he said. "And it's like a young player, they get better as times goes on. I think Ty is doing a great job at improving every year. It's not easy when you come in and fill in the shoe of coach Sloan."

Watson, 33, played college ball at UCLA and forged a close relationship with legendary coach John Wooden. He likened Corbin taking over for Sloan to Gene Bartow taking over for Wooden in 1975.

Although he had to figure out how to live in Wooden's shadow, Bartow had success, guiding UCLA to the 1976 Final Four.

Corbin has already put his stamp on the Jazz -- has already gotten them to the playoffs -- and has earned the respect of his players, who see him as a tough, no nonsense coach.

He's now comfortable with the responsibility that comes with being a head coach, even though it means more gray hair and less sleep.

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