After getting back to .500 last night with a win over the Golden State Warriors, the Phoenix Suns travel to Utah to face a very different Jazz team tonight after the abrupt resignation of head coach Jerry Sloan.
Ty Corbin, former Jazz player and assistant to Sloan for the past six years, will replace the Hall of Fame coach and faces the Suns in his first two games in the position.
“[With] Jerry Sloan stepping down, you expect a reaction from the players and usually that’s the case,” Grant Hill said. “So it would have been nice if he waited a game or two.”
The last time the Suns and Jazz played without Sloan as head coach was on November 19, 1988, back when Hill and Steve Nash were high school students and Alvin Gentry had recently won an NCAA title as an assistant coach with Kansas.
The Jazz won that game 134-121 behind Karl Malone’s 42 points, while Corbin — the same one replacing Sloan as head coach — came off the bench and scored 11 points for the Suns.
Tonight’s game promises a slightly different cast of characters, but the impact of a game without Sloan on the sideline can’t be overstated.
“[The Jazz] are either going to be discombobulated or they’re going to be really hyped up,” Channing Frye said. “You know it’s going to be very different but I’m not really worried about what’s happening with them.”
“We now got to .500 so we don’t have an opportunity to dip [and] we’ve got to keep everything going,” Jared Dudley said.
Two of the next three games for the Suns will be against the new-look Jazz. They play Friday night in Utah and Tuesday night at the US Airways Center. The Suns sit at tenth in the West, two games behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the final playoff spot, going into Friday’s game.