Around the NBA: Jerry Sloan - 02/17/11
|Jerry Sloan had been a fixture on the Jazz sidelines for 23 years.|
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I haven't broken out the brown trench coat or the starched, short-sleeve baby blue Oxford's, but my acumen as an investigator tells me there has to be more to Jerry Sloan's resignation. A head coach who worked for the same team as head coach for over twenty seasons, survived the loss of his long-time wife, and endured the ever-changing landscape of an NBA Franchise doesn't resign from a job in the middle of the season. Something stinks.
Stories circulated soon after Sloan announced his resignation last week that an argument with Deron Williams was the precursor to the abrupt end of a consistent coaching career. If I may, in judging Sloan from afar (a prerequisite for any blogger), venture to guess, some tiff with a point guard, though he may be the best player on the team, and one of the top point guards in the league, would not be enough to force someone from the sidelines after such a period of time.
Some general managers and decision makers believe the coach can be replaced. A player of Williams' ilk is the most valuable commodity. The conspiracy theorists (the nerve of people who refuse to take stories at face value and fail to see only truth in everything manufactured by the news manufacturers) think the impending free agency of Williams after the 2012 season scared upper management in Utah. The team badly needs to do anything it can to keep Deron in Salt Lake City, even if it meant a Sloan resignation and the appointment of Tyrone Corbin as head coach.
The human side of me believes Sloan was tired. He'd had enough. He held the same job for nearly 23 seasons. I've had a 27-year run of existence and had six jobs since graduation. It's hard to fathom being that consistent, that willing to show up to work at the same place for 23 years.
He'd seen the Jazz through the late 80's and the success of the Karl Malone/John Stockton era. His teams were good, really good, yet the whole Michael Jordan experience of the 90's squashed two Jazz appearances in the NBA Finals.
The three, Jerry, John, and Karl were emblematic of the Utah Jazz, a half-court offense with the pick-and-roll delivered with crippling execution by Stockton and Malone. You know the stories, you've seen the games. The pairing produced beautiful basketball. It felt that Sloan would have stepped down when the two (Stockton's retirement, Malone's futile attempt to hi-jack a title with the Lakers), finished in Salt Lake City.
Jerry stuck around. The Jazz drafted Williams and assembled a team that challenged the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. He'd seen the team through a second wave of success, a rarity for coaches.
After such a career, it's understandable, yet not acceptable to take one for granted. Didn't we as basketball fans do the same to Sloan? Year in, year out, it was accepted that he'd be on the sidelines, arms at his sides, working the Jazz into another playoff appearance. Somehow, some way, the team would earn a playoff seed. May basketball was an annual occurrence in Utah.
In a world where you could play "Guess Who" with NBA head coaches at the beginning of the season, Sloan was a steadying force. The typical conversation during the season goes one of two ways when referring to coaches: "Oh they replaced him last year at the end of March" or "I can't believe they haven't fired him yet." Sloan didn't merit such conversation because he was consistently good, a trait more and more admirable as years go by.
In the mold of Cal Ripken Jr., John Mellencamp, and "Friends," Sloan was consistency in the long-term, always one short step away from greatness. Never quite had enough to win a title (more on account of Jordan than any other factor), but no doubt premiere, unquestionably worthy of any praise. He deflected attention from himself, showed up each day, and made Utah of all places, a professional basketball power.
So was he forced out? The dirty laundry will eventually appear on the line next to stories of locker room fights, near executed trades, and the free agent who almost signed with your favorite team. In Sloan's case, forced out or not, he deserved the opportunity to walk away from the game after he poured so much into it as a player and a coach. Twenty-three seasons and over 1100 wins as a coach gives anyone that rite. No motive is needed to tell you that.
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.