While many NBA teams currently possess head coaching vacancies, nowhere is there a more perfect match between job and candidate than with the Utah Jazz.
Sources told ESPN.com that Jazz officials intend to at least pose the question to the Hall of Fame guard about his willingness to move into coaching, while mindful of Stockton’s lack of previous coaching experience and the fact that he has long loathed the sort of spotlight associated with the job.
Stockton played his entire 19-year career with the Jazz, helping lead them to playoffs every single season. He averaged 13.1 points, 10.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game in 1,504 career games, leading the league in assists for nine straight seasons. Stockton is the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals.
While he’s never coached in the NBA at any level, Stockton would be the perfect candidate for the Jazz.
For one, he’s already beloved in Utah and knows the franchise inside and out. His involvement in the team would certainly boost attendance numbers, where Utah ranked just 19th in attendance percentage this season (via ESPN.com).
Former point guards have proven to be successful coaches in the NBA. Jason Kidd led the Brooklyn Nets to 44 wins and a playoff upset over the Toronto Raptors just a year removed from his playing career. Mark Jackson won 51 games with the Golden State Warriors in a loaded Western Conference. Stockton’s former teammate, shooting guard Jeff Hornacek, finished second in NBA Coach of the Year voting this past season while guiding a young Phoenix Suns team to 49 wins.
Let’s not forget that Stockton spent 15 seasons under one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, Jerry Sloan. The years of knowledge gathered from Sloan is an invaluable trait for Stockton to use when beginning his coaching career. Sloan would also be a great reference to use and call for advice when needed, as would Hornacek.
Looking at the roster, much of what Utah hopes to build revolves around their young point guard, Trey Burke. Who better for Burke to learn from and develop under than the NBA’s all-time leader in assists? Stockton would only help elevate Burke’s game and turn him into one of the best young floor generals in the league.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated once asked Stockton about returning to the league in some form, to which he replied:
“I’ve never ruled it out. I have not sought it out either. It’s just not time for me. I don’t know that I’m an office guy in any way shape or form. If I were to come back, it would be on the coaching side.”
If Stockton does have a goal of returning to the NBA as a coach, what better opportunity would come around than this?
The Jazz need to heavily pursue Stockton for their head coaching vacancy, as the combination of fit and ability is too good to pass up.