At Jerry Sloan's press conference Wednesday, he cited declining energy as one reason for resigning during his 23rd season with the Jazz.
Karl Malone sounds skeptical.
"I know my coach," Malone said Friday night before the Jazz's 95-83 loss to Phoenix. "The coach I know and the man I know has never quit or resigned at anything. That's what I want to say. ... That man has never resigned."
When Malone played for the Jazz, the ever-competitive Sloan once challenged him to a fight in the team's huddle during a game.
"He said, 'I'll fight you as long as I can see you,'" Malone recalled. "And I said, 'It won't be long.' And we laughed about it. That's the coach I know."
If Sloan is tired, Malone think he knows the season: "Coach Sloan, Jerry Sloan, what he probably got tired of is guys [not] bringing it every night."
Malone, who already planned to visit Utah before Sloan's resignation, met with the media because "... I've gotten a lot of texts and a lot of calls ... [and] yesterday was not a good day to react. I wanted to be here personally to say what I have to say."
Malone got the news about Sloan via a text message from his wife.
"Of course, your reaction is sad," he said. "I think people don't understand the whole NBA lost a guy that put his heart and soul and everything else into it. It's sad. ... Coach Sloan, to me, is the most unbelievable person."
Malone did not forget that Sloan's long-time assistant, Phil Johnson, also resigned.
"We lost two head coaches," he said. "What we lost will never ever be replaced."
Malone hasn't talked to Sloan, saying the two have been playing phone tag for the last couple of days. He claims not to know specifically why his ex-coach resigned.
"You guys know the facts," he said. "I don't. So, I don't want to comment on that."
In typical fashion, however, Malone talked about the Jazz not trying to "B.S." the fans in Utah with stories of waning energy and enthusiasm for the job.
"They know basketball," he said. "So people can spin it any way you want to spin it. But if you lie to them, they are going to call it on [you]. And they know Jerry Sloan. ...
"The men I know and the coaches I know, they would never lose the fire and the desire. Now, they might get tired of the B.S. All of us would, but ..."
Saying the Jazz are "at a crossroads as an organization," Malone declared it was time for everyone to pull together, not go different directions.
"Everybody needs to see what they can do to help this situation," he said. "... What we can do is not throw hand grenades but try and see what we can do."
When he retired, Malone told Jazz management he would always do anything possible to help the franchise that drafted him in the first round in 1985 and where he played for 18 seasons.
"I've always been a phone call away to help this organization," he said. "They haven't taken me up on it. That's fine. [But] I will repeat that. ... I've always said that."
Malone and his family live in Ruston, La.
Asked if he would consider joining new coach Tyrone Corbin's staff, which now includes Scott Layden and Jeff Hornacek, Malone smiled.
"To be honest, at this time, my son plays football and he's decent at it," he said. "He's a [high-school] sophomore back home and I wouldn't want to do that. At some point and time, I would be honored if I were mentioned as a [possible] coach. But I don't think this is the time."
What advice would Malone give Corbin, a former teammate?
"I would say to Ty, 'Try to embrace the situation,'" he said. "It [doesn't] happen to many people. ... It's going to be tough. But on the flip side, enjoy it and let's see what happens."
-- Steve Luhm
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