Jazz notes: Johnson says he's sticking by Sloan
Miami • Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is not the only one taking his career day by day.
Longtime Utah assistant coach Phil Johnson said Tuesday that he, too, evaluates his tenure with the Jazz on a take-it-as-it-comes basis.
Johnson has served in his current role since 1988, after rejoining the franchise to become Sloan's right-hand man. The duo have a working relationship that dates back more than three decades, and Johnson coached Sloan with Chicago from 1971-74.
Following news Sunday that Sloan plans to soon agree to a contract extension with the Jazz, Johnson said he intends to remain on board as long as his heart is in the game.
"I just go year by year, month by month, day by day. Bottom line," said Johnson, prior to Utah's contest against Miami. "When I wake up some morning and don't want to go to work or whatever [I will not]. â¦ But right now, everything is fine."
Sloan is quick to credit assistants Johnson, Tyrone Corbin and Scott Layden as being one of the main keys to his longevity, consistency and success. And he did not hesitate to praise Johnson's work when asked about his contributions.
"He's a very good teacher," Sloan said. "He's got a great knack for being able to explain things much better than I was ever able to do."
To Johnson, Sloan's ability to coach the game without an ego and employ common sense has served as the core of a professional relationship that in some ways has defined Jazz basketball more than John Stockton and Karl Malone during two-plus decades. And Sloan's willingness to delegate responsibility has created a coaching chemistry that is the envy of others in the industry.
"I can't imagine a coaching staff being as close as we are," Johnson said. "And I think that it shows in how everybody does their job, and no one really wants to have that much publicity about it. You just do your job and try to win games."
Jazz center Al Jefferson did not take the court during overtime of Utah's 116-114 victory over the Heat, as Sloan decided to instead use reserves Kyrylo Fesenko and Francisco Elson.
Jefferson struggled throughout the game. He finished the first half with zero points on 0-for-6 shooting and failed to establish an offensive presence in the low post. He then totaled two points on 1-for-7 shooting with nine rebounds and three fouls in 27 minutes, 59 seconds of action.
Sloan said he pulled Jefferson because the team was playing better defense with Fesenko and Elson. Meanwhile, Jefferson had struggled with his shooting and overall execution.
Sloan said it was not personal, and joked that the two had not had an argument.
"That's what people think we do is sit and argue all day," Sloan said. "I'm too old to do that."
As for Jefferson, Utah's starting center and premier offseason acquisition acknowledged having an off night.
"I don't know what it was," Jefferson said. "Shots didn't go in for me. And that's fine. Like I said, that's part of life."
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