Interview — Ex-Jazz's Jerry Sloan on NBA lockout, John Stockton, Phil Johnson, coaching return
Excerpts from a media interview Wednesday with ex-Jazz coach Jerry Sloan prior to his induction into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame.
Sloan on what the induction means to him: There's not many rodeos left. … When you look back on your career you wonder what it was all about and why.
Being inducted with Phil Johnson: There's no doubt that he's certainly had a tremendous impact on my career. I don't know what I would have done without him. He won a lot of the games when I was in the locker room. And our backgrounds are very similar. He's from the country. I went to his home when we first got together and he came back to where I was from. There's a lot of similarities. I'm just thrilled to death to be able to have him with me all of the time that I coached.
Walking back into EnergySolutions Arena: Coming into this building is a little bit strange, not having anything to do. That's the way it is. I'd never retired before, never resigned before. Didn't really know exactly how it was going to be. But when it's over it's over. You go on about your business and hopefully find something that's worthwhile other than cleaning out garages or something like that.
1998-99 NBA lockout and 2011 lockout: The biggest disappointment that I have — I'm certainly interested in watching games; I watched the playoffs more than I've ever watched them. The sad part about it and what concerns me the most is what do we do with the fans. The fans that stuck with us here in this organization for all those years, I think they deserve better than that. But I don't have any control over that. We wish that they would get back as soon as possible for their benefit. There's always going to be some misunderstandings and things like that. But hopefully they get all those things worked out.
Miss coaching: I miss coaching. I didn't know if I would or not. I didn't miss it for a while because I was — 27 years I worked in this organization and never had a chance to get away from it, except for the lockout they had before; I was away from it for a little bit. But to know you don't have to get out of bed, that's kind of interesting. I'm kind of getting over that. I get up pretty early now. I work out a little bit everyday and try to keep my heart going a little bit.
John Stockton flying in for the event: It was a tremendous honor for me when I went into the Naismith Hall of Fame and John, I went in with him. I felt like I was on his coattails long enough and John doesn't need me. But at times in my life … I needed him and he was there. That was the good thing about it.
Memories with Johnson: We're playing the Clippers one night and I get kicked out and I say, 'Win this one.'
Did he: No. I didn't give him much of a rope.
Stayed in touch with Johnson: We never talked a lot in the offseason. We never communicated but maybe once a month at the most. We've been around each other for so long. Our association on the floor was kind of unique. We kind of learned that probably from Frank [Layden]. Frank gave us an opportunity to coach whenever I was here, and I tried to give the coaches that I worked with an opportunity to coach the team as much as possible, because I didn't think I had all the answers. … Phil and I worked very well together because we thought a lot the same way on certain things and ideas about trying to play the game.
Difficulties during 1998-99 season: One of the things that happened in that, there was a lot of pressure for us to trade John and Karl [Malone]. But you look at the playoffs and the teams that win championships are usually older, veteran teams. And I think that's what happened in the years that we got there. They got older. We were able to surround them with a little better players. … We believed we could win, and of course they were the guys that made that happen. That was one thing that people talk about now. When you shorten the season down, I think younger teams have a much better chance of winning. San Antonio, I believe, did win it all that year. You look at a team like Oklahoma City, they're a young team. You get them in a short race, they could be pretty dangerous because they have terrific young talent. … Somewhere in there I'd been with the Olympic team, and a lot of people thought John and Karl, that was the end of it then for them. But that wasn't the case. People didn't have any idea how tough they were, how demanding they were, how much demand they put on themselves to be good everyday. And, yeah, they weren't Michael Jordan or somebody like that. Karl was at the top but John wasn't going to jump over anybody that played the game. He did a lot of things — it's so much fun to think that I had the opportunity to coach them. How simple he made little things and how he was able to get other people to play at another level without saying a lot. A lot of guys talk about leadership but they don't lead very well. He never talked about it a great deal. In fact, he'd rather shy away from it. But he was a guy that made a lot of things happen.
Walking back into ESA: … I don't want to be in anyone's way. I want to see the team do well. You can't spend 27 years in one spot and walk out the door and say, 'I hope they lose.'
Missing coaching; still leaving the door open: Yeah, I'll just see what happens. If there's interest, there is. If there's no interest, that's fine, too. I've resigned myself pretty much to that because of my age. But I think I'm in fairly good shape for my age so far, it seemed like. After having a few days off and getting a little time off I thought I felt pretty good. … I don't know exactly what I would end up doing. I went back to the CBA after being fired. And that wasn't too much fun. I wanted to get into coaching. I could go to high school. In fact, when my son graduated high school, I told Bobbye that I would take the first job that was offered to me, whether it was a high school job, college job or pro job.
Brian T. Smith
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