It is time to regard Utah as a viable playoff contender and throw Ty Corbin squarely in the mix for Coach of the Year consideration.
Taking over for Jerry Sloan in the middle of last season, Corbin understandably seemed overwhelmed as he guided the Jazz to an 8-20 finish. Never so much as a first assistant in Utah (that was Sloan's right-hand man, Phil Johnson), he had to learn on the fly amid the reverberations of trading star point guard Deron Williams.
But this season, Corbin has the Jazz competing for a postseason spot and building for the future at the same time. He has kept veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on track with starters' minutes without stunting the development of second-year forward-center Derrick Favors or rookie center Enes Kanter. He's exercised tough love on inconsistent second-year swingman Gordon Hayward, who has been in and out of the starting lineup, and steadily brought along rookie shooting guard Alec Burks, who is contributing in the absence of injured vets Raja Bell and Josh Howard.
The Jazz are climbing up the Western Conference standings with seven victories in their last eight games, the only blemish a quadruple-overtime loss at Atlanta. Their surge also has lifted them to eighth in this week's Power Rankings, which continue to be topped by Chicago despite its home loss to struggling Denver on Monday.
(All stats and records are through Monday, March 26.)
NBA Power Rankings