So you had a miserable year and your fans are contemplating joining what seems like the rest of the nation by becoming Heat fans? You know what would win back some clout. You know that it comes in a 6-foot-1, 175-pound package. You know that it would bring back any lost fans and reinforce the wavering ones. You pick up the phone and dial John Stockton.
That is just what the Jazz did after Utah’s 25-57 season, winning around 31% of their games and losing eight of their last ten. It was confirmed through multiple reports that the Jazz and Stockton did indeed talk, but the results of the talk are, as of yet, unknown. The question at hand is how likely is Stockton’s return to coaching? If he does come back, could it be a long-term solution? Would the Jazz win more than 41 games?
One thing is certain: Stockton understands Utah Jazz basketball and the Jerry Sloan mindset that still dominates it years after his retirement. Stockton is a no-brainer in terms of work ethic, understanding of basketball, and coaching ability. What’s more, he would have the respect of his players whether he coached in Salt Lake City or in Los Angeles.
Be careful not to write that off too quickly—most coaches in most positions don’t demand the respect of their players as they should. The NBA is plagued with players who think their coaches are old fashioned. It’s no guarded secret that NBA players have egos larger than the deficit Miami ran up on Indiana in the fourth quarter of game four (zing).
Utah doesn’t have that problem, due to their small market location and “work first” attitude, but players would still benefit from having a coach in a workhorse like Stockton. He could form Trey Burke into a veritable superstar and would work wonders on a second string PG that they could potentially draft on June 26th. He would also be able to work well with Karl Malone who is working as a trainer for the big men, forming chemistry all the way from the team leadership to the far right side of the bench.
This could by why the Utah Jazz dialed Stockton’s number earlier this month. They could recognize Stockton’s value not only as a coach for the players and a unifying force in the front office and team management, but also as an appeal to the fans. Jazz fans would like nothing more than their shining star returning to the Delta Center night after night in an important and fitting role.
Is this why the Jazz contacted him? Does it really matter? My bet is Stockton won’t ever see the Jazz bench up close and personal again. He loves his family and loves being out of the limelight. Even as a player, he avoided the media. Why would he jump back in it? The love for basketball isn’t strong enough to make someone do something they dislike 82 times a year, plus practice appearances, mid-game interviews, and post-game comments.
The Jazz are certainly in a state of disarray and are hoping to build something that will last for years to come, but historically that takes five to ten years in the NBA. Time will tell what avenue the Jazz take, but one thing is certain: whether coach or not, Stockton won’t be wearing his short shorts this time around.