On a day when his job security was in question, Tyrone Corbin received a warm welcome in his first game back in Utah as an opposing head coach.
While the Kings were in talks to hire George Karl on Saturday, Corbin returned to EnergySolutions Arena, where he took over for Jerry Sloan with 28 games left in the 2010-11 season and remained until last season, when his contract was not renewed.
Fans applauded Corbin, who also played for the Jazz for three seasons.
Corbin said he has fond memories of his time as a Utah player and coach, and he loved how his young players last season worked hard daily to improve. One of those players, forward Gordon Hayward, is averaging a career-high 19.4 points as Utah’s primary option on offense.
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“I think he’s learned what it takes a little more,” Corbin said of Hayward. “It’s still a big, huge responsibility every night to have to carry a team on the offensive end and then the things he has to do on the defensive end playing guys at his position.”
Corbin was 112-146 with the Jazz, including one playoff berth.
Not as tough – Utah coach Quin Snyder was asked before the game about rookie point guard Dante Exum’s chances against the Kings.
With Darren Collison out because of a strained right hip flexor, the Kings started Ramon Sessions.
Exum was coming off a stretch of playing some of the better point guards in the West: Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Memphis’ Mike Conley, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul and Phoenix’s attack of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas.
“It isn’t a part of the gantlet, as we say, with the Western Conference point guards,” Snyder said, “though I feel like Dante has been improving.”
Back in the mix – Kings forward Reggie Evans, who was inactive the previous four games, returned to action Saturday.
Evans was the first big man off the Kings’ bench ahead of Carl Landry, who had been a trusted option as a reserve most of the season.
Evans last played Jan. 21 against Brooklyn.
Meanwhile, Omri Casspi played the bulk of the minutes behind Rudy Gay at small forward. Derrick Williams, a starter two games ago, did not play Saturday.