Jacque Vaughn credited Jerry Sloan, spoke of the value of John Stockton and was reverent about Karl Malone in his first return to Utah as an NBA coach.
Vaughn, whose Orlando Magic play the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena at 7 p.m. Wednesday, spoke flowingly following his team’s shoot around about four seasons spent with the Jazz after being drafted in 1997.
“Some great friends along the way,” said Vaughn, who at 37 is the NBA’s youngest current coach. “I had great veteran guys who I was able to sit next to and see their focus and approach to each game and approach to practice and what it took to survive in this league. I’ve always said I’m proud of that, and I owe those guys.”
Vaughn’s Magic enter the game at 7-10 but seem to be heading in a better direction than the Jazz, who have lost three straight. Orlando has won two straight on the road over the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State.
“I think they move the ball extremely well,” Jazz point guard Mo Williams said. “They play extremely unselfish, they play extremely hard. Those are probably the most difficult teams to prepare for because you have to match their energy.”
The Magic seem to be matching the energy Vaughn played with for four seasons backing up Stockton, including on the 1998 team that lost to the Chicago Bulls in the finals.
“John was at every single practice,” Vaughn said. “Even as a rookie, he was in line in front of me in every single drill.”
Of Malone, he said: “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.”
And of course there was Sloan. The longtime Jazz coach frequently watches Jazz games from the middle of the lower bowl. If he attends Wednesday, he’ll watch two former Jazz players coach against one another.
“Playing for coach Sloan,” Vaughn said, “there’s a lot of lessons that I still go back to. One of them is that you approach this like a job and you’re professional about it.”