Tyrone Corbin fondly remembers time on inaugural Timberwolves team
MINNEAPOLIS — Back in the Twin Cities for the first time since his latest career transition, Tyrone Corbin felt the memories wash over him like a hot shower in Minnesota during winter.
The Kings coach and original Timberwolves alumnus talked about the Metrodome and NBA attendance records. He caught up with folks who’ve been with the club since that inaugural 1989-90 season. He walked past the metal plaques depicting each current Wolves player outside the Target Center locker rooms, remembering the days when he wore a now-retro version of the same jersey in each image.
Two and a half of Corbin’s 16 seasons as a player were spent in Minnesota. Before and after, he played for eight different teams. The small forward from South Carolina was traded six times, growing accustomed to sudden change.
But today is different.
"As a player, you worry more about just you," Corbin said Thursday before his team beat Minnesota 110-107. "As a coach, you’ve got to worry about so many more guys and what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and what gives you the best chance to win and what you want to change and what you don’t want to change and how you get to those things when games are going on."
And doing all that on the fly is even tougher.
Brought on by Mike Malone after the Jazz fired Corbin this past offseason, Corbin replaced his surprisingly terminated boss on an interim basis Dec. 15. On Wednesday, he told reporters he’d oversee the Kings’ on-court operations at least through the end of the season, though they’re eventually expected to hire a replacement.
With DeMarcus Cousins as a centerpiece and Rudy Gay signed to a three-year extension, Sacramento got off to a 5-1 start but had lost 14 of its past 18 heading into Thursday’s victory. Corbin, who served as Utah’s head man from 2011-14, is now charged with leading the Kings past those doldrums.
After that, his future’s as uncertain as it’s ever been.
"It’s been some of everything," said Corbin, whose 14-19 squad sits 3 1/2 games back of the West’s final playoff spot. "I thought they were building a great relationship with Mike. So that adjustment along with the play on the floor and changing things it’s been a lot for them.
"We talked this morning and we realized we have to get back to work and make sure we’re all on the same page and come with a good effort every night and focus to execute the game plan every night."
As a player, Corbin went from Phoenix to Minnesota in the 1989 expansion draft. He stayed for two-plus seasons before the Wolves traded him to Utah for Thurl Bailey and a 1992 second-round draft pick.
In 1989-90, Minnesota’s inaugural campaign, he ranked sixth in the league in steals.
After his long, journeyman’s playing career, Corbin broke into the coaching ranks as a Jazz assistant under Jerry Sloan in 2004. Seven years later, he took over in midseason following Sloan’s resignation.
It wouldn’t be the last time he’d be thrust into such a position.
"It’s a difficult situation any time you take over in midstream," said Wolves president and coach Flip Saunders, who became Minnesota’s head coach several games into the 1995-96 season. "It’s extremely difficult."
So is winning with a rebuilding roster. Corbin posted a 112-146 record during his time as Utah’s head coach.
Amid the current chaos, though, Corbin still looks back on his short stint in Minnesota fondly, he says.
"(Original owners Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner) were great owners, and they did a great job in the city of bringing NBA basketball back," Corbin said. "(I remember) just the enthusiasm of the people and how they embraced the organization here."
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