The Utah Jazz have made some massive changes over the last few months following a loss in the first round of the NBA playoffs to the Dallas Mavericks.
The two deals have ushered in a long-term rebuilding project in Utah, but it has also left it with a large toolbox of future first-round draft picks.
The first part of its overhaul this offseason was the departure of longtime head coach Quin Synder, who had been at the helm of the team since the 2014-15 campaign.
The Jazz’s new head coach is Will Hardy, a thirty-something first-timer who had spent several years as an assistant under the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.
Hardy’s staff will now include Jeff Hornacek, who will be a “coaching consultant” for the team.
Jeff Hornacek is returning to the Jazz as a consultant to new head coach Will Hardy https://t.co/CZ4lv2QzQC
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 15, 2022
Hornacek has some head coaching experience in the recent past, but before that, he was a popular and important member of some of Utah’s best teams ever.
Hornacek Has Been Around
A second-round pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, Hornacek had a quiet first two years in the pros.
But he started to emerge during the 1988-89 season, averaging 13.5 points and 6.0 assists per game as his Phoenix Suns reached the Western Conference Finals.
Over the next three years, Hornacek’s game continued to improve as the Suns established themselves as one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
His best attribute became his 3-point shooting, and his apex came in the 1991-92 campaign when he averaged 20.1 points a game and shot 43.9 percent from downtown while earning a spot on the All-Star team.
Afterward, he was sent to the Philadelphia 76ers in the trade that brought the Suns Hall of Famer Charles Barkley.
Midway through the 1993-94 season, Hornacek was moved to the Jazz, where he spent the rest of his career.
Other than his steady play, he became known among fans for his free throw ritual, which involved him stroking the right side of his face.
In honor of Jeff Hornacek's birthday:
The man, the myth, the free throw ritual 🤚🙂 pic.twitter.com/xD7Z0coWGo
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) May 3, 2019
Hornacek’s Coaching Experience
The 6-foot-3 guard retired in 2000, and during the 2007-08 season, the Jazz hired him as a special assistant coach to help players improve their shooting.
He became a full-time assistant in 2011, a job he held for two years.
Afterward, the Suns hired him as a head coach for the 2013-14 season, and despite a lack of talent, he guided them to 48 wins in his first year there, a major improvement from their 25-57 record the year before.
Hornacek then spent the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns as the head coach of the New York Knicks during the failed Phil Jackson regime.
He has spent the last two seasons with the Houston Rockets as an assistant.
With Hornacek on Hardy’s staff, the Jazz have brought back one of their most popular players from yesteryear, as well as someone who may be able to help them return to the NBA’s elite in terms of 3-point shooting.