The email with a familiar address attached started in the subject line with the words, “Head coach.” They were even spelled correctly. The writer?
The message read: “I’d like to officially put my name in as the next Jazz head coach. Who better to get that rumor started? “Greg.”
The one, the only ‘Tag man himself. He’s emailed me before to correct/comment on/complain about ironclad facts I’ve written and spoken — usually about him. He was the Jazz gift that never completely stopped giving, from the time he said he’d been abducted by aliens straight through his revelation that if he had a free day, he would spend it sitting under a tree, watching the leaves blow to the ground as puffy clouds passed overhead.
I fondly remember the time, long after he had retired, when Ostertag informed everyone on radio that he had named his donkey, the dumb one who did everything wrong, after me. An honor, indeed.
He subsequently confessed, chuckling and chortling, that he owned no donkey, dumb or otherwise.
Either way, the point is, this is the season for that.
Rumors, not dumb donkeys.
There’s even room for nomination of the toothless, 7-foot 00, the Big Oh-No.
Everybody’s in the pool.
Nobody knows with any exactness who the Jazz will actually hire as their next coach.
The Shadow doesn’t know.
Not even the Jazz know.
Ryan Smith doesn’t know. Danny Ainge doesn’t know. Justin Zanik doesn’t know. Quin Snyder doesn’t know.
Where does that leave the rest of us?
It leaves us in a delicious kind of speculative mode and place, in which we are fully licensed to swing away, to guess as to who might come next. And when brilliant coaches, such as Snyder and, another example, Brad Stevens in Boston, decide on their own to move on, there is the hope, usually faulty, that someone new can arrive and push what has already been built to new heights. Such is the rare case with the Celtics, where Stevens bumped himself upstairs and Ime Udoka took not only the reins, but also the entire team at this year’s NBA Finals.
Don’t stretch the imagination quite that far because there’s typically not enough elasticity in the arrangement.
Ainge said at Snyder’s farewell press conference that he would take his time doing a search and making a decision. He’s in no hurry. Smith said the team had to get it right.
There are candidates — relax, not Ostertag — out there, names bouncing around like a Super Ball hurled in a shower stall. Kevin Young, Will Hardy, Adrian Griffin, Charles Lee, Terry Stotts, the former Trail Blazers coach who was hanging out at Snyder’s house a couple of months ago, and most fascinatingly, Johnnie Bryant and Alex Jensen.
Bryant, a former Jazz assistant now with the Knicks, and Jensen, Snyder’s most recent No. 1 lieutenant, each former Ute players, are compelling possibilities for a number of reasons.
First, they are gifted basketball minds. Second, they are familiar with the Jazz and with Salt Lake City, Jensen being a Utah native. But the third one tops the list, grabbing you by the throat and thrashing you and your curiosity, your attention, all over creation.
It is this: As capable Jazz assistants, Jensen worked most closely with Rudy Gobert, helping him become not only an All-Star, but the most dominant defender on the planet. Bryant, on the other hand, worked together with and greatly aided Donovan Mitchell, helping him become one of the NBA’s best guards.
It’s worth asking, then, if the Jazz were to hire either of the two, what would it portend for not just the team and its future, but for those two players and their futures?
Whether they should or not, in the modern NBA, star players usually have some say not just in which players to obtain through trades or drafts, but who should coach the team. Unless they’re LeBron James, they don’t have majority control, but they have some of it.
With so much speculation about the Jazz being in flux this offseason, who they identify and ultimately bring in as coach, particularly if it’s either Jensen or Bryant, might be a signal, a harbinger, of what’s to come thereafter.
Again, Ainge said he was in no rush, not even if other personnel decisions were made before the head coach hiring happens. But watch closely that hiring and other hints could follow.
Yeah, it’s all speculation, all speculative. But that’s all anybody’s got at present. And that’s what we’ll have to settle for — for now. Unless you want the Jazz to go ahead and get it over with quickly, and hire Greg Ostertag.
The entertainment factor with that would ratchet through the roof. Not sure about the winning. How many NBA teams have a head coach who once claimed he had been beamed aboard a spacecraft, been subbed out in an extraterrestrial manner and replaced?
Now that’s worth oh-so serious consideration.