SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – About to begin his 16th NBA season, Mike Conley has a new role on this young, developing Utah Jazz team. Conley has become a teacher and a mentor.
“I haven’t been in this situation for a very long time,” Conley said. “To have had so many years, the last seven or eight years or so, when you’re goals have been a certain thing and your focus in training camp has been a certain thing, here you’ve had to kind of take a few steps back. I’m growing with these young guys, especially in a leadership role and be as good as I can for them.”
Conley came to the Jazz four years ago expecting to compete for an NBA title. While he has helped the Jazz make the playoffs every year he has been here, preparing for this season has been been difficult knowing this team is years away from title contention.
The Jazz own some nine first round draft picks over the next seven years, and are in a complete rebuild phase.
“It’s tough,” Conley said about the Jazz, who have 14 new faces currently on the roster. “We’re not preaching championship this year, but winning is still an everyday thing that we can do. We don’t have that mindset and its hard to function in any culture in trying to lose. That’s going to set you back even further.”
With 13 players currently on the roster 25 years of age or younger, the 35-year-old Conley is getting peppered with questions every day from his teammates.
“It’s a lot,” Conley admitted. “I’m getting one every two minutes about something, but it’s fun. It’s really cool, them reaching out and knowing they trust you and your opinions.”
Conley’s main advice to the young guys? Slow down.
“We’ve got so many guys who are quick and athletic, that they beat a guy, and the first thing they do is get to the rim and they jump,” he said. “But when they get up there and there’s a 7-footer, it’s like, what do I do? You get stuck sometimes. Stuff like that just allows the game to be slower for you.”
So after he’s done playing, would Conley consider going into coaching?
“It’s not out of the picture,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d be a good coach. I told the young guys that I don’t know if I can coach you guys. I don’t know if I got the patience. They’re like my kids in a sense. I don’t know if I could coach them, but we’ll see.”
Conley and the Jazz tip off the NBA regular season Wednesday night at home against Denver.