Utah Jazz: Who Can Save the Franchise?

Scott LambsonContributor IIIFebruary 19, 2011

Who would have ever thought it would come to this?

For the first time in 26 years there is a serious threat to the stability of the Jazz franchise.

You may think I'm overreacting, but I'm not. Things have become dangerously unstable, and I haven't seen anything like it since Larry Miller bought full control of the fledgling franchise in 1985.

No, I don't have any inside information coming from Jazz management, but I do know something even more important, and that is the word on the street, and the attitude of Jazz fans.

Simply put, it's dire, and in many ways it was inevitable.

When John Stockton and Karl Malone retired, it was a huge blow to the franchise, but fans still had their beloved owner in Miller, and the Jazz's brilliant coaching staff.

Then tragedy struck with the sudden passing of Jazz owner Miller, and all that remained was long-time head coach Jerry Sloan and his loyal assistant Phil Johnson.

However, with the recent resignation of both Sloan and Johnson, Jazz fans, for the first time in a quarter century, are all alone. None of the Jazz core, whom they grew up with and came to love, remain.

Not even the great Hot-Rod Hundley on radio. Now we must painfully endure the whiny David Locke.

The questions I'm hearing from Jazz fans on the street are this: Who can I get behind? Who can I believe in? Who will bring me to the arena?

That last question should send shivers up the spines of the Jazz front office. And the question is certainly legitimate.

Who can save the franchise?

Is it CEO Greg Miller?

The jury is still out on him. First of all, who is Greg Miller?  I knew his dad, after all, everybody knew that guy. But Miller? Who is he?

Can he somehow regain control of a franchise that is imploding before his very eyes? Does he even care as his dad did? Does he even know anything about basketball? Is he just going to continue to remain in the shadows?

At some point, he needs to stand up and make a bold decision that grabs the respect of Jazz fans like his father did before him.

Is it GM, Kevin O'Connor?

I doubt it. O'Connor has always been perceived by Jazz fans as an outsider. He has never connected with the community, and he is currently enemy number two for Jazz fans right now. Fans want to know how under his watch they lost head coach Sloan during a playoff push.

What about Ty Corbin?

No. Nothing against Corbin, but he isn't going to bring Jazz fans out to the arena. He has been thrown into the lions den this past week as interim head coach. I think all Jazz fans believe that he's a great guy and most likely a good coach, but let's be honest, there isn't a lot of buzz or chatter about the Ty Corbin era. Most Jazz fans are simply refusing to believe he is sitting in Sloan's seat!

Deron Williams?

I actually just laughed out loud. D-Will is finished in Utah. He'll never overcome the Sloan fallout and as much as a few smattering of Jazz fans don't want to admit it, it is in the best interest of the franchise.

Next year D-Will will be in his seventh season and although he's been a great point guard, it's just not working out in Utah. He will be too expensive to keep around after next season anyway. When Jerry gave up on D-Will that should have been a clear sign to all Jazz fans that we need to look elsewhere too.

O'Connor I'm sure wants to keep D-Will but I'm not so sure it's in our best interest to keep O'Connor around at this point either.

I would rather see Scott Layden as our GM. I know Layden got chewed up in New York, but this isn't New York, it's Utah. Layden is a Jazz lifer, and after all it was Layden who was responsible for drafting Stockton and Malone.

So who can save the franchise? I don't think anybody knows, and that is exactly why the franchise is in trouble.

The truth is, fans aren't going to show up and shell out half their meager pay check to watch selfish, uninspired basketball.

Larry Miller was a no-nonsense and tough as nails owner, Sloan was a no-nonsense tough as nails coach, and Stockton was a no-nonsense tough as nails player.

Together they sold nearly three generations of Utah basketball fans on their brand of basketball and even more importantly paid the bills by keeping butts in the seats.

The franchise is in disarray and the large majority of fans don't believe in anybody.

So what to do?

I have a few suggestions.

For starters, Miller needs to have his defining moment as the owner of the franchise. He needs to do something that grabs the attention of Jazz fans everywhere and show them that he cares. Only he knows exactly what he can do, but he needs to do something, and fast.

My second suggestion is to keep bringing in former Jazz players whom Jazz fans fell in love with. Utah is a family state, and the more former Jazz greats they can bring in, the more interest the fans will have in the team.

The best thing that has happened since the Sloan resignation was the hiring of former Jazz great Jeff Hornacek as a full-time assistant coach. Unlike Corbin, Hornacek brings instant star power with him and his presence on the bench will give Jazz die-hards a glimmer of hope. In my opinion, he will be the next Utah Jazz head coach within two years.

Malone has also recently expressed interest in getting into coaching, and while the Jazz don't need to run out and make the Mailman an offer to become a bench coach, it certainly wouldn't hurt to have him around in some sort of capacity, lighting a fire under the butt's of modern day millionaires.

My third suggestion is to find a way to acquire BYU standout and potential college basketball player of the year, Jimmer Fredette.

Nothing would be bigger for the franchise. Nothing.

I think the Jazz can do it, if they are willing to trade Deron Williams. Maybe, that becomes Jazz owner Greg Miller's defining moment?

If he can find a way to secure the greatest Mormon baller on the planet, playing just two blocks from temple square, Jazz fans will turn out in droves.

Let's not forget how valuable D-Will can be in the right package deal. If the Jazz play their cards right they could not only land Jimmer, but also a couple of great players in the deal as well.

Lastly, and most difficult, find a way to bring back Stockton. I don't care in what capacity, just do it. Just the mere presence of Stockton around the organization would keep fans interested. In a dream world Stockton would become the next Jazz GM and lead the Jazz to a world championship from the front office.

Why not?

Believe it or not, the success of the franchise's future might just lie in the past.


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