SALT LAKE CITY — Jacque Vaughn smiled when he said it.
And there was an obvious understanding behind hit.
The former Jazz point guard and current Orlando Magic head coach was asked about the challenges visiting teams usually face when playing at EnergySolutions Arena.
“Always difficult to play here,” the 37-year-old rookie coach said with a broad grin.
He should know, he played here as a youngster, back when ESA was known as the Delta Center. During his four seasons in Utah (1997-2001) the Jazz went 117-31 on their home floor.
On Wednesday Vaughn’s Magic team ignored the crowd and mounted second-half rally, pushing the Jazz to the brink before Utah finally wiggled away with an 87-81 victory.
“Sometimes the basketball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn spent four seasons in Utah, then made stops in Atlanta, Orlando, New Jersey and finally San Antonio.
He played 776 regular-season games over 12 seasons, spending most of his career as a backup.
As a Jazzman, his job was to back up John Stockton and before Wednesday’s game he said he learned a great deal from the man.
He said there aren’t better role models than Stockton and Karl Malone.
“John was at every single practice,” he said. “Even as a rookie he was in line in front of me in every single drill. And Karl was unbelievable. His approach, his physicality, his taking care of his body, his work ethic, it was great for a young guy to see.”
Vaughn admitted he gained an even greater appreciation for his time in Utah after he left.
Jazz 87, Magic 81
• BEST PLAY: Despite missing his first six shots, Jazz guard Randy Foye rises up to take – and make – a 3-pointer with 3:13 remaining, giving Utah an 81-79 lead. Foye’s shot is part of a 9-0 run that helps seal the win for the Jazz.
• BEST LINE: Al Jefferson finished with a season-high 31 points and 15 rebounds for the Jazz.
• KEY STAT: The Jazz hit 82 percent from the free throw line, including 4-for-4 in the fourth quarter. Those points proved critical in a six-point win.
• HISTORY LESSON: Wednesday marked the 13th anniversary of the day Jazz Hall of Famer Karl Malone moved past Wilt Chamberlain and into second place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The Mailman scored 31 points in the Jazz’s 98-84 victory over Toronto, giving him 31,443 at the time, 24 more than Wilt “The Stilt.” Malone finished with 36,928 points for his career and remains in second place behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
• UP NEXT: The Jazz will play host to the Toronto Raptors on Friday then prepare for a quick road trip to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers Sunday night.