Hakeem Olajuwon's one-on-one coaching sessions with various NBA players seem to have inspired a trend. After the success of (or at least attention awarded to) Olajuwon's sessions with everyone from LeBron James to JaVale McGee, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has made himself available for instruction, as well. Coaching big men is the new post-career activity for basketball greats, apparently.
Now a new legend has entered this field, albeit in a more official capacity than either Hakeem or Kareem. As announced on the Utah Jazz's official radio station, Karl Malone will work with the team's big men on a part-time basis. From Jody Genessey of the Deseret News (via PBT):
Karl Malone has accepted a job to help coach the Jazz big men, the Hall of Fame power forward announced on the team's radio station during an interview with CEO Greg Miller.
"I think your involvement with our bigs is going to help us win more ball games," Miller said.
It is unknown how much time Malone will spend as a coach on Tyrone Corbin's staff, but he expressed excitement about working with the Jazz young bigs, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, beginning this offseason.
"We haven't discussed nothing other than that I'll be coaching the bigs," Malone said, adding that he's still working out a scheduled with Corbin on how to approach his new gig.
To clarify, Malone will not be an official assistant coach on the bench — as of right now, he's only working with big men on occasion. His role sounds similar to that of a roving instructor in Major League Baseball, a position often held by former players who work in the minors and majors to improve abilities at specific positions. It's a formal position with fairly informal responsibilities, at least in comparison to those of on-bench coaches.
It's as yet unclear how effective Malone will be. While any player should consider himself lucky to learn from one of the best post scorers in NBA history, the Mailman has never served as a coach and hasn't proven the ability to instruct effectively over a sustained period of time. The Jazz have good reason to want him involved with the franchise, and putting him in this role is a low-risk option. He could be an extremely effective coach; if he isn't, the Jazz at least formalized a relationship with one of the two best players in franchise history.
Retired stars have a great deal of knowledge about their respective sports, but they often were so successful that they don't know how to instruct less effective players on how to improve their games. For all we know, Malone could be an excellent coach, but that doesn't change the fact that the Jazz hired him on faith. It's smart of them to keep Malone in this minor role while simultaneously keeping open the possibility that he could take on more responsibility in the future. For all his greatness as a player, he's unproven in this role.