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Jerry Sloan
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Analysis: Grand accomplishment doesn't impress Sloan

By Art Garcia,
Posted Nov 8 2008 5:16PM

SALT LAKE CITY -- Jerry Sloan walked out of his office after shootaround Friday morning with a 12-pack of Bud Light in plastic bag.

The gift from a friend is about the extent of hoopla Sloan can tolerate on a night when a new NBA milestone was born.

Here's to 1,000.

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Sloan became the first coach to reach 1,000 victories with the same team when his undefeated Utah Jazz handled Oklahoma City before a packed house Friday that came to pay their respects. The 104-97 victory that wasn't as close as the final score served as another example of execution and effort by the Jazz.

It's rare when a coach outlasts the term of a President. How about a coach that outlasted the term of a President ... and his son? Sloan took office in Utah on Dec. 9, 1988 or a little more than a month before the inauguration of George Hebert Walker Bush. George Walker Bush checks out in about 10 weeks.

Just as it's been for nearly 20 years, Sloan isn't planning on going anywhere before Barack Obama takes the oath.

If Sloan's tenure isn't enough, the no-frills coach may have taken hold of a record that won't be broken (at least certainly not before Obama seeks re-election).

Only four other coaches in league annals have eclipsed a grand worth of W's. No one else has come close to doing it with only one nickname. The late Red Auerbach is second, piling up 795 with the Celtics.

San Antonio's Gregg Popovich checks in third with 633. He's at least seven years away from sniffing 1,000. His contract also expires with Tim Duncan's in 2012, and many believe the two will ride off into the sunset together.

"The number is ridiculous to think about how long you've got to be in one place," said Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo, a good friend of Sloan and Pop. "Forget about how many games you have to win a year to get to it."

Sloan, naturally, has no time for the fuss bred on his behalf. He'd much rather no one kept such records or commemorated such milestones. Guys in John Deere caps aren't looking for attention.

"It's uncomfortable to me," said Sloan, whose overall record of 1,094-717 includes a short stint with Chicago. "I'm not comfortable in that setting. We should be talking about the game."

He's tried to diffuse talk of 1,000 in recent days. Other than the uneasiness associated with talking about himself, the coach in Sloan had competitive reasons for not wanting to go there.

"The other team doesn't want those things to happen against them," he pointed out. "Anything you give the other team is a disadvantage to the team you're with."

Sloan's humility is precisely the reason the NBA needs to honor his stability and his success. Sports have always been transient, even in the good-ole-days. How many teams did Wilt Chamberlain play for?

Larry Brown, generally recognized as the greatest basketball mind of the last 30 years, has held about as many jobs.

There have been 219 coaching changes since Jerry Sloan took the job with the Jazz.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Carlesimo called it a lesson for owners and GMs.

"When you have somebody good, stay with him," said Carlesimo, who in a show of class walked over to shake Sloan's hand before the final buzzer. "Instead of playing musical chairs all the time. Again, you have to have somebody good.

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"I'm not saying every team in the league should stick with a coach for 20 years, but it's a lesson in having a system and believing with it. I think you see it in San Antonio right now. You see it here."

Sloan, 66, is quick to credit Jazz owner Larry Miller. He's only worked for two general managers: Frank Layden and Kevin O'Connor. There have been 219 coaching changes since Sloan took the job and he admits there were times when Miller could have "pulled the trigger."

Sloan has led the Jazz to 17 playoff appearances, two NBA Finals trips and 16 straight winning seasons (1988-2004). His system has stood the test of time as a symphony of simplicity with devastating efficiency. Stockton-to-Karl Malone wasn't a fluke and Deron Williams-to-Carlos Boozer reinvented the model.

Sloan's players talked about the consistency their coach brings to the locker room. He's more than the stereotype fans see yelling at players and refs. He's a family man who believes in treating people with respect.

But Sloan is no softie. He wasn't as a player and certainly is not in a suit. As one player put it, "What he says goes." In a time when many players yield more power than coaches due to finances, Sloan is one of the few uniquely positioned to do it his way.

If anyone in the Jazz inner circle was excited about what happened Friday, it was the players. Even if one, rookie Kosta Koufos, wasn't born when Sloan notched that first victory.

Jerry Sloan's Career Records
Team Year G W L W-L%
CHI 1979-80 82 30 52 .366
CHI 1980-81 82 45 37 .549
CHI 1981-82 51 19 31 .373
UTA 1988-89 65 40 25 .615
UTA 1989-90 82 55 27 .671
UTA 1990-91 82 54 28 .659
UTA 1991-92 82 55 27 .671
UTA 1992-93 82 47 35 .573
UTA 1993-94 82 53 29 .646
UTA 1994-95 82 60 22 .732
UTA 1995-96 82 55 27 .671
UTA 1996-97 82 64 18 .780
UTA 1997-98 82 62 20 .756
UTA 1998-99 50 37 13 .740
UTA 1999-00 82 55 27 .671
UTA 2000-01 82 53 29 .646
UTA 2001-02 82 44 38 .537
UTA 2002-03 82 47 35 .573
UTA 2003-04 82 42 40 .512
UTA 2004-05 82 26 56 .317
UTA 2005-06 82 41 41 .500
UTA 2006-07 82 51 31 .622
UTA 2007-08 82 54 28 .659
UTA 2008-09 5 5 0 1.000
Career -- 1811 1094 717 .603

"It's such a magnificent accomplishment, but all he wants is the championship," Boozer said. "He doesn't care about the 1,000th win. If the 1,000th win was the championship, then he would."

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Life inevitably changes in a generation. Sloan lived through the loss of his beloved first wife Bobbye in 2004 to cancer and married again. Money has dramatically altered a league that's gotten younger and more international.

The NBA is different. Some say for the better. Others aren't so sure.

Sloan's Jazz stand as the exception. Sloan is the exception.

It's still about relationships, he says. Players today aren't much different than when he played in the 1960s and '70s.

"They're still people," Sloan said. "I don't think there's any big difference. I had problems with guys then and I have a few problems with guys now, not major things. It's always been relative."

Sloan won't dwell on 1,000, just as he didn't the previous 999. He remembers individual games along the way, not artificial achievements measured by math.

"I've never looked at it as far as numbers are concerned," Sloan said. "The fun of playing was probably about as exciting as it could get for me.

"Some people can walk away from it after they get done and not even watch basketball. I don't know what happened to me."

Gerald Eugene Sloan became a coach without pretense. The kind of coach his peers admire. As for the gift in the plastic bag, he actually tried to give it away.

Leave the toasting for someone else.

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