PHOENIX — It wasn’t anything personal, but Jeff Hornacek waited before visiting with his friends on the Utah Jazz’s coaching staff Friday night when he made his first trip to EnergySolutions Arena as a head coach.
“I try and tell our players it semi-drives me nuts when guys are out there BS'ing with their buddies while they’re warming up for the games,” Hornacek said. “Maybe I’m too old school, but I usually don’t talk to the guys beforehand. After the competition, you go say, ‘Hello,’ and buddy up.”
And that’s just what the Phoenix Suns' head coach did.
Right after the Suns beat the Jazz 112-101 at ESA, Hornacek looked over at Utah's coaching staff and players and gave his old friends a thumbs-up signal. Forty-five minutes later, the longtime Jazz player/coach meandered down the hallway, shaking hands along the way, and walked into the familiar settings of the Jazz coaches office.
Hornacek offered Jazz point guard Trey Burke some words of encouragement just outside of Utah’s locker room.
“They’re great guys over there,” Hornacek said. “I just wanted to say, ‘Hello.’ … They’re friends of mine.”
Hornacek chuckled before Saturday’s game when asked what the conversation was about with Tyrone Corbin and Co.
“I’m not telling them what we’re doing tonight,” he said. “He’s not telling me either.”
Corbin appreciated the visit, even if his friend’s team had just beaten him for the second time in a month.
“It was great. It was bittersweet. We’d just lost a game. It’s good to see him,” Corbin said. “I’m happy that he’s doing well here. I think his team’s responding very well and they’re playing pretty good right now. I feel real good for him.”
So, did Hornacek do any ribbing after Friday’s win? Corbin smiled. “I won’t say.”
LOOKS FAMILIAR: Corbin and Hornacek were teammates with the Suns years before they both ended up in Utah. Hornacek started his career in Phoenix, and Corbin joined him from 1988-89.
The Jazz coach sees a similar brand of basketball being played in the Valley of the Sun a quarter of a century later. He laughed while recalling how he and Hornacek used to talk about that high-scoring Suns team, which also included Kevin Johnson, Tom Chambers and Mark West.
“That’s what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to create the pace,” Corbin said. “He has the guys who can create the pace. He’s trying to score 30 points a quarter, to get up into the 120 range, and he’s playing with that pace.”
That late 1980s Suns team averaged 118.6 points while going 55-27. The current Phoenix squad averaged 101.6 points coming into Saturday’s contest.
SOUNDS FAMILIAR: Hornacek was asked which old coaching mentor his style more closely resembles: Cotton Fitzsimmons or Jerry Sloan?
“There’s been some on both sides. There was one game when we weren’t playing very well and I got after them a little bit at a timeout,” Hornacek said, smiling. “I think one of the guys commented, ‘Whoa! I never saw Coach get that mad.’ That was probably a little Jerry at that point.”
GOOD CALL?: Burke, a Michigan product, had no qualms with Michigan coach Brady Hoke going for two at the end of the Wolverines’ game against rival Ohio State. The Buckeyes won after they stopped the conversion attempt.
“You’ve got nothing to lose. … I think it was a good call,” Burke said. “Obviously, we didn’t get it, but I think it was a do-or-die call. It was one of the best games I’ve seen (between) Ohio State-Michigan.”