SALT LAKE CITY — Tyrone Corbin has about the same chance of winning NBA coach of the year as his Utah Jazz do of winning the NBA title.
While the Jazz may make the playoffs with a couple of wins this week, they aren't going to win a title this year — not with the likes of Miami, Chicago, Oklahoma City and San Antonio standing in their way.
And Corbin isn't going to win NBA Coach of the Year honors. Most "experts" are saying Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau or the Spurs' Gregg Popovich will take the award this year or perhaps Boston's Doc Rivers or Indiana's Frank Vogel. Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks is also getting some mention.
Those coaches each have teams at or near the top of their conference standings, so it makes sense that they're among the coach of the year favorites.
But why shouldn't Corbin be considered a top candidate?
A lot of coaches in the league have done remarkable jobs this year, juggling their lineups with little practice time in the lockout-shortened season and having to deal with injuries and players needing rest. But I wonder if anyone has gotten as much out of his talent that Corbin has this year?
How many people expected the Jazz to be in the playoffs this year, or even contending the last week of the season? Not many. In fact in looking back through various preseason predictions, I couldn't find any that put the Jazz in the playoffs.
In December, just before the start of the season, Sports Illustrated.com asked seven of its NBA writers to make predictions about the upcoming season in 10 different categories. Under the category of "Worst Record" three correctly picked the hapless Charlotte Bobcats, two picked the Toronto Raptors and one picked the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The other one, Sam Amick, chose Utah, saying "the Jazz will struggle mightily" and "Utah lost 17 of 25 games after Deron Williams was traded to New Jersey last February and there's no reason to think that trend won't continue."
Another writer, Britt Robson, picked the Bobcats, but said if Kemba Walker developed, then it would be the Jazz or the Raptors with the worst record.
While the Bobcats, Raptors and Cavaliers have struggled, as expected, with records well below .500, the Jazz are in position to finish six games above .500 and make the playoffs. Fifteen teams have worse records than the Jazz right now.
Probably the best gauge of Utah's success this year is a look at the odds Las Vegas gave for the total number of wins.
Anybody on the street can make predictions and put them on the Internet, but Las Vegas oddsmakers can't throw out crazy predictions, because that's how they make a living.
So in looking at the odds from Las Vegas from before the season began and the over/under on how many wins each team would get this year, which team do you think exceeded its number more than any other?
If you guessed the Jazz, give yourself a gold star.
The Jazz were picked to win 24 games and with 34 wins currently, they are plus-10 with two winnable games left.
The next best team in the NBA is Toronto, which is seven games better than its 15 projected wins, while San Antonio and Indiana are next at plus-6 and plus-5 respectively.
That fact alone should be enough to give Corbin coach-of-the-year consideration. Voters in the past have used that criteria to pick the likes of Sam Mitchell (Toronto 2006-07), Don Chaney (Houston 1990-91) and Gene Shue (Washington, 1981-82), teams that didn't contend for titles, but exceeded expectations.
Thibodeau won the award last year, but this year his team was picked to win 47 games is just one above that, at 48 right now. He's been praised for dealing with a bunch of injuries this year, but how about the Jazz losing their veteran starting guard, a veteran starting forward each for double-digit games this year? Not to mention their sixth man and backup point guard.
Corbin gets criticized for not playing the young players enough or playing certain guys too much or keeping the same combinations together for too long. But his patience with guys like Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris and Derrick Favors has paid off as each is playing his best ball of the year.
In the past, I've made a case for Jerry Sloan to win coach of the year honors, but it never happened. He always said he couldn't care less and really, the coach of the year award isn't that big of a deal.
It's not going to happen with Corbin this year. That doesn't mean Jazz fans shouldn't appreciate the great coaching job he has done this year and how far he's brought the young Jazz team. Corbin has done an outstanding job.