The face of the Utah Jazz, Jerry Sloan, calls it a career
By Mark Heisler
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES -- Jerry Sloan never got an NBA title, or was named MVP or selected as coach of the year.
All he ever won was all the respect and admiration the NBA had to give in 37 years of rock-solid devotion, the last 23 in Utah as the longest-serving coach in the four U.S. major leagues....
Until Thursday when he resigned, three days after signing a one-year extension.At 68, Sloan wasn't just the face of the Jazz franchise. If it had a Mount Rushmore, one of the heads would be missing.
"We're all kind of sad that we're losing a big figure from our game," said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson before Thursday's game in Boston, joining the torrent of praise for Sloan all around the NBA.
His voice cracking with emotion -- something else no one had ever seen -- a hollow-cheeked Sloan made the announcement at a news conference in Salt Lake City.
"This is going to be harder than I thought," he said.
"My time is up and it's time to move on."
Sloan said he was leaving because of fatigue, not because of any problem with management or players.
Actually, he was having trouble with All-Star point guard Deron Williams, and didn't think he was being backed up by third-year owner Greg Miller.
Sloan and Williams reportedly argued angrily at halftime of Wednesday's home loss to the Bulls, Utah's 10th in 14 games.
"(Sloan) decided right there in halftime that he was done," a league source told Yahoo Sports.
"He felt like ownership was listening more to Williams than they were to him anymore. He was done."
Delaying his news conference after Wednesday's game, Sloan met with General Manager Kevin O'Connor, informing him he would resign.
O'Connor asked him to sleep on it. So Sloan got up Thursday morning and resigned.
The Jazz named assistant coach Ty Corbin to replace Sloan, or at least succeed him.
Meanwhile, the other grand old man on the Utah bench, Sloan's long-time assistant Phil Johnson, resigned too.
Suggesting this had been building, Johnson told a Salt Lake City TV station, "It's a process. It's not like it's one night or one practice or one game."
The surprise was that Sloan stayed as long as he did to coach players so young after Karl Malone and John Stockton left in 2003.
In the summer of 2004, Sloan's wife, Bobbie, died of cancer after a long fight, once appearing at a news conference to describe her condition with her husband holding her hand. In Salt Lake City, the Sloans were family.
Defying expectations, Sloan had a new team built around Williams, snared by O'Connor in the 2005 draft, that won 51 games within four years of the departure of Stockton and Malone.
Nevertheless, the Jazz kept running into the Lakers, who eliminated them in the last three postseasons.
Noting he tried to talk Sloan into staying, Miller said, "I want to make it clear that nobody pushed Jerry or Phil out.
"I loved and respected Jerry for as long as I can remember.... I will miss him but benefit from the things he taught me for the rest of my life."
Miller hasn't even begun to miss Sloan yet.
With Utah's reputation as a solid franchise, there had been little mention of Williams as a 2012 free agent while speculation about New Orleans' Chris Paul was constant.
With so much of what made the Jazz what it was disappearing in a day, expect to hear Williams' name more often.
Jerry Sloan abruptly resigns as Jazz coach
By K.C. Johnson
On the last night of his unparalleled coaching run with the Jazz, Jerry Sloan sat in the media room, eating his pregame meal.
For Sloan, the game-night ritual was no big deal, as ordinary as the John Deere hats he preferred to wear on most practice days.
Yet in today's world of professional sports, in which egos and money can run amok, Sloan's no-frills, no-nonsense approach stuck out like, well, a farmboy from tiny Gobbler's Knob near McLeansboro, Ill., making the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Sloan, whose No. 4 is retired and hanging from the United Center rafters honoring his Bulls playing days, reached that pinnacle in 2009. As the longest-tenured coach in all of pro sports, Sloan seemed poised and engaged enough during a long conversation before his team's loss to the Bulls on Wednesday to keep adding to his storied career.
Instead, he abruptly pulled the plug on his 23-year run as Jazz coach, a decision he reached late Wednesday after an altercation with star guard Deron Williams at halftime. After meeting with general manager Kevin O'Connor and owner Greg Miller, Sloan slept on his decision.
Then, in typical Sloan fashion, he alternated between heart-on-his-sleeve sentiment and matter-of-fact realism during an emotional news conference Thursday. Sloan said he simply ran out of energy to perform his job to his exacting standards.
"My time is up and it's time to move on," Sloan said, failing to fight back tears. "It's a long time to be in one organization. I've been blessed. Today is a new day. When I get this over with, I'll feel better."
O'Connor and Miller said they urged Sloan to stay.
Williams said he had had clashes with Sloan because of their shared competitive nature, but he didn't want him to leave.
"I would never force Coach Sloan out of Utah," Williams told KFAN-AM. "He has meant more to this town, more to this organization than I have by far. I would have asked out of Utah first. . . . I got a chance to learn from the best."
Sloan, 68, leaves with a 1,221-803 career record. His longtime right-hand man, Phil Johnson, resigned with him. Former DePaul star Tyrone Corbin, a Jazz assistant, was named "active coach," fitting that an organization that prides itself on loyalty eschewed the word "interim."
Sloan, who also coached the Bulls from 1979 to 1982, is the only coach in NBA history to win 1,000 games with one team, a feat he accomplished Nov. 7. Since he took over for Frank Layden on Dec. 9, 1988, there have been 245 coaching changes.
Five current teams -- the Bobcats, Grizzlies, Raptors, Magic and Timberwolves -- and 40 current players didn't exist at that time. Sloan's victories rank third all-time behind Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens.
But numbers fail to capture what Sloan meant to those he coached, the state of Utah and the NBA itself.
"He treated everyone the same," said Bulls guard Kyle Korver, who played 2 1/2 seasons for Sloan. "If you were the first man or 12th man, he would look you in the eye, say hello, shake your hand. You got that every day.
"He genuinely cared about you as a person. And he was just a good person. He wasn't a man of many words. He was consistent. He was honest.
"You see guys who get caught up in fame. He's the same guy he was 30, 40 years ago."
Former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause scouted and helped draft Sloan for the Baltimore Bullets in 1965. In a phone interview Thursday, Krause recalled how difficult it was to congratulate Sloan, given their shared history, after the Bulls' 1997 and 1998 NBA titles over the Jazz.
"Jerry is one of the greatest competitors I've ever seen in sports, on par with Michael (Jordan)," Krause said. "He was consistent, fair, tough. He ran the same system and made you adjust to him. There will never be another like him."
Indeed, Sloan detailed his humble beginnings in his one-of-a-kind Hall of Fame acceptance speech -- head down, nervously mumbling his way through eloquence and achievement.
In a casual conversation before a Bulls-Jazz exhibition in October 2009 in London, Sloan admitted that was the most nervous he ever had been.
Sloan was one of 10 children and lost his father at 4. He would wake early to do chores around the family farm, then walk miles to a road where he would hitchhike to a one-room schoolhouse for basketball practice before classes.
This is no joke. This is who Sloan was.
Perhaps fittingly, Sloan on Wednesday addressed his firing from the Bulls, shunning a light-hearted question about whether he would like to see those great mid-1970s Bulls teams honored.
"I'd rather be loafing around a farm than doing something like that," Sloan said. "It's not a big deal.
"And I don't think anybody wants to get fired. But when things don't go right, you're held responsible for it. I walked away and was able to show my kids what it was like to get fired. Hopefully, it teaches them something. I went on with my life, went a different direction, got lucky and things worked out well."
Mavericks who played for Sloan recall his tough style
By Eddie Sefko
The Dallas Morning News
DENVER -- Dallas Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson has some vivid memories of former Utah coach Jerry Sloan. He won't ever forget the John Deere hat that Sloan always wore to practice.
And he'll never forget how tough and demanding the legendary Sloan could be.
"He had one style, and it was hard," Stevenson said. "He was real hard. But either he was going to break you or he was going to make you. He made a lot of people in the league who, if they didn't know him, would have been out of the league. A lot of guys feel like, if you can make it with him, you can make it with anybody."
Sloan resigned Thursday after 23 years as coach of the Jazz. He was the longest tenured coach in any professional sports league. And it wasn't even close.
As Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said, there will never be another coach in the NBA who lasts that long. It's just no longer possible.
The circumstances surrounding Sloan's departure aren't fully known. He said he just didn't have the energy anymore. Whether new-age players sapped him of that energy that not long ago bubbled in him, the world may never know.
There was speculation that All-Star point guard Deron Williams clashed with Sloan. And both player and coach have admitted there were rough spots in their relationship.
Stevenson can relate. Like Williams, he butted heads with Sloan often during his formative years in the league after Utah drafted him as a teenager out of high school.
"If you fed into that style, it was a great situation," Stevenson said. "He was a great coach to me. He made me who I am in tough times and good times. He made his legacy with one team and especially as a coach, you never see that. That's a legend.
"The thing he did was crazy. It'll never happen again. To see him go down like that, I didn't think it would be like that."
But no matter what, Sloan will be remembered not only for how he handled players, but also for how he respected the game.
"The guy has stood for everything that's right about our league for such a long period of time," said Carlisle, who is president of the NBA coaches' association. "And it was interesting listening to some of the hearsay, a lot of talk about how it's been the same system and he calls all the plays.
"I've been studying his team for over 22 years, and he has been a master of adjusting to the way the game has changed, the way his personnel has changed. . . . His contributions to coaching and coaches have been gigantic."
Barea stepping up:
The Mavericks owe their 10-game winning streak to J.J. Barea, who has been a critical offensive cog lately.
Barea's strong play made up for Dirk Nowitzki's tough night caused by a sprained right wrist, and the Mavericks were able to grind out their 10th consecutive win, 102-100, over the Kings on Wednesday in Sacramento.
It's the second winning streak of 10 or more games this season. The Mavericks won 12 in a row bridging November and December. This is only the second season in franchise history that they've had multiple double-digit winning streaks. They had three 10-plus streaks in 2006-07, topped by a 17-gamer, when they went 67-15.
"J.J.'s heart is as big as his body," said Jason Kidd. "He's worked extremely hard and he always plays hard. And you see that paying off.
"It helps when you can stretch the defense and you can throw your fastball right down the middle. He's our fastball. Maybe he'll be the changeup when Roddy (Beaubois) comes back. But he's making the right plays."
Barea was being counted on to do so in the fourth quarter against the Kings, who were sticking with the Mavericks' shooters and also keeping a big man close to Tyson Chandler. That left Barea free to blow through the defense to the rim.
Barea was 6-of-8 in the fourth quarter with four layups and a pair of 3-pointers. He finished with 20 points.
"In the fourth quarter, he was our go-to guy to make plays," Carlisle said. "He just did a great job of scoring and a couple times he kept the ball alive for us and he battled on defense."
Said Barea of his newfound status as the Mavericks' offensive anchor: "I love it. I love having the ball in my hands, especially when you got shooters all around and you got a big guy there for the screen. That's basketball. If I miss it, I know Tyson's going to be there to clean it up. That's what coach keeps telling me: Get into the paint and then we'll go from there."