Monson: Greg Ostertag has learned from his substantial Jazz regrets

First Published      Last Updated Feb 23 2017 11:43 pm

Ostertag has grown up after basketball, and can’t wait to reconnect with Jazz.

Greg Ostertag has gone and grown up.

It's a couple of decades too late to help the Jazz, but there should be some satisfaction in knowing the enigmatic man who played center for the team during its best seasons, back when he regularly wrangled with Jerry Sloan and once said aliens had kidnapped him, along with other inexplicable goofiness, looks back at his experience in Utah with happiness in his heart, substantial personal regret and a whole lot of appreciation.

On account of the Jazz announcing a 20-year reunion for their 1997 Western Conference championship team set for March 22, with the Jeff Hornacek-coached Knicks in town to face the Jazz, Ostertag took some time earlier this week to talk with Spence Checketts, Craig Bolerjack and me during our radio show on 97.5/1280 The Zone.

He started the interview with an insult, a laugh, and he ended it with a tribute to Sloan that backed up the plumbing in his own eyes and made everyone else's eyes feel dusty, too.

"Hey, Gordon," he said. "I'm out here with cows, chickens and donkeys, and I named one of the donkeys after you."

"It's the smartest one, right?" I said back.

"No, it's the dumb one that always runs into the fence," he said.

Ostertag is a cruel, cruel man now.

No, no, he is not.

He is a man with perspective, taught through and by the years between then and now that his time with the Jazz was pretty darn good, the winning was good, the opportunities on the floor were good, the mentorship was good.

"It was so much fun," Ostertag said. "The only thing we didn't do right was win [the championship]. I'm honored because I got to play with two of the best ever. They should be honored because they got to play with me."

He laughed when he said that, too.

One other thing that wasn't right: Ostertag's approach to the game.

"The thing I've learned now that I'm older and wiser is that all those times Jerry was yelling at me, it wasn't his fault, it was my fault. [John Stockton and Karl Malone] were two guys who came to work every day. They worked hard at practice, on their own, in the summertime, you're never going to find anyone who worked as hard as Karl did. … If any young player wanted to follow any players, it would be those two. Great work ethic."

He wasn't one of them.

"I was young and dumb," Ostertag said. "I thought I knew everything."

He added: "I've got a lot of regret in my life. One of them is not being the player for those guys that I could have been and should have been, taking for granted that I was 7 foot, and only being as good as I was, not being better. Bobbye Sloan and John and Karl used to tell me, 'If Jerry wasn't yelling at you, he didn't care about you.' At times, I thought he cared a little too much.

"Looking back, I blew that. … I know Jerry only wanted the best for me."

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