Malone's return to Jazz has potential for good, bad results

Jun 1 2013 - 10:47pm


In the same way a quadruple scoop of ice cream is a good thing, the return of Hall of Fame power forward Karl Malone to the Utah Jazz seems like a pretty sweet deal.

And, yes, it just might be.

But like those four scoops of mint chocolate chip sitting delectably atop a waffle cone, there is a potential for disaster. That, I suppose, only adds to the intrigue. However, if the treat isn't properly managed -- if it's not cared for on all angles -- it easily could turn into the sort of sticky, gooey mess nobody wants to clean up.

From here on out, folks, think of me as your mother. By that I mean think of me as someone who's got your best interest at heart; someone who's voice is both nagging and reasonable all at the same time.

Wash your hands.

Put on clean underwear.

Remember to say "Thank you."

And when it comes to The Mailman's return to the Jazz, don't jump on the furniture.

Let's take a deep breath, OK?

Look, I love Karl Malone. I think he's great, not just because he's one of the NBA's all-time greats but because I believe he's a genuinely great person.

Last week, when the Jazz announced he was going to help out as a mentor and part-time coach for youngsters Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, I thought it was a slam dunk of an idea. After all, we're talking about one of the best to ever play the position; we're talking about someone who's forgotten more about the pick and roll than most current NBA players will ever know.

Shoot, look at the guy. He's still in phenomenal shape, still as fit and strong as ever ... or at least pretty close to it. He turns 50 next month and I think we can all agree he could still play at least 20 minutes a night.

Karl was born and raised in Louisiana but he grew up here in Utah, under the direction of Frank Layden, Jerry Sloan and late Jazz owner Larry H. Miller. Fans may not have known the impact The Mailman would have on their lives when he was first drafted in 1985, but he soon did and most Jazz fans still love him for it.

His retired No. 32 jersey now hangs in the rafters at EnergySolutions Arena and his statue stands in front of the building alongside John Stockton's.

What he means to the Jazz is immeasurable simply because it's impossible to quantify EVERYTHING.

But having noted all of the above, let me also note this: Karl Malone's greatest fan might just be Karl Malone.

That's not to say he's selfish or uncaring, but let's not pretend he doesn't love the sound of his own voice or that he doesn't enjoy being the center of attention.

Frankly, there's no way anyone achieves what he has without having a little I-Me-My in them. Nobody rises to his level without supreme self-confidence.

But knowing Karl the way they do, it would be irresponsible of the Jazz's decision-makers not to keep this new situation in check. What's more, they'd be fools to put The Mailman on the bench as an assistant next to head coach Tyrone Corbin, one of Karl's former teammates.

See, even when he's doing his best not to create a distraction, The Mailman can easily become exactly that. Even when he's talking about the importance of teamwork and an all-for-one mentality, the wagging tongues in the media will turn that message on its ear.

Think about it. If he talks too much, it'll become a distraction. And if he doesn't talk at all, it'll become a distraction.

And if he talks just enough ... well, shoot, that just ain't The Mailman, now is it?

The things that transformed Karl Malone into The Mailman are too intangible to teach. However, just being able to spend time with him -- to bond with him -- will be incredibly valuable to Kanter and Favors.

Having Malone teach the Jazz's talented young big men is a terrific idea, it really is. Who better to teach them about staying in top physical form? Who better to teach them footwork and balance? Who better to show them what it means to be part of a community?

But if the Jazz ask The Mailman to deliver more than that -- if they put him on the coaching staff and require him to be anyone's "assistant" -- it'll become a big, sticky mess.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at He tweets at


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