Utah Jazz: Sloan returns to Illinois campus
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - By his own count, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan had been back to the University of Illinois only twice in the last 48 years since he came to play basketball as a freshman and returned home to McLeansboro, Ill., two months later.
Once was for a preseason game when Sloan was an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls. The other was for a basketball tournament in which his son, Brian, once played.
"It was quite an experience for me," Sloan said of coming to Illinois, "but I was totally lost here because I came from a very small area and was overwhelmed by the whole situation."
Sloan went on to star on two Division II national championship teams at Evansville and played 11 seasons in the NBA. As part of Friday's trip back to Illinois, Sloan was able to reconnect with two former teammates.
He swapped stories with Bill Small and Dave Downey, the latter of whom he hadn't seen since leaving. Sloan also acknowledged that there's no telling what direction his life would have taken had he stayed at the school.
"A lot of thoughts run through your mind over the years," Sloan said, "but I think I made the right choice as it all turned out. But I felt like that I could play at this level at that particular time and I think I proved that I could."
While the Jazz are getting to know rookie Kosta Koufos, Illinois coach Bruce Weber can speak a little more authoritatively about the 19-year-old. Weber recruited Koufos out of high school and followed him during his lone season at Ohio State.
"If you just go watch him work out and stuff, he's amazing," Weber said. "Now he's got to learn to take that and fit it into a system.
"For their system, if he can make some progress, he'll be a nice fit. He gives you some of that perimeter shooting with a big guy, yet he has athleticism and size. He's a good kid, I hope it works out."
By the book
Although he played only one season with the Jazz, Dee Brown wasn't forgotten on this trip. Every room at the team hotel had a copy of a commemorative book - "Dee Brown: My Illini Years" - published by the local newspaper.
"Here I am thinking, 'It's a magazine in the hotel, Dee's on the cover, OK, he's the cover story,' " Jarron Collins said. "I start flipping through and I realize, 'No, no it's the actual Dee Brown book.' I take it he's a popular guy here."
Sloan used the closest thing to a regular rotation so far in the preseason, with Ronnie Price the first point guard off the bench. . . . Brevin Knight jammed his already injured left thumb in the second quarter and did not return. . . . Morris Almond and Kyrylo Fesenko played the entire fourth quarter and went 0-for-7 for the Jazz. . . . The Jazz's loss Friday was only Williams' second ever at Assembly Hall. Illinois dropped one home game in his three years at the school. . . . Former Jazz forward Roger Powell, a teammate of Williams' at Illinois, had four points in seven minutes for Chicago.