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February 10, 2011

Jerry Sloan to Resign?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:05 pm

According to the Deseret News, Jerry Sloan and lead assistant Phil Johnson will announce their resignation from the Utah Jazz this afternoon. Though last night’s bizarre postgame scene provided a hint that something was going down, this is shocking nonetheless after 22-plus seasons and more than 1,100 wins in Sloan’s tenure as the head coach of the Jazz.

I’ll have a column up later this afternoon, and I’m sure Bradford will want to weigh in as well, but for now a personal reflection on how much I used to hate Jerry Sloan. It wasn’t personal, of course. Utah was the biggest rival of the Seattle SuperSonics during the 1990s, and not in a friendly way. While that hatred was primarily directed toward John Stockton and his sneaky dirty tactics and Karl Malone‘s bruising play, it naturally found its way to Sloan as well.

It was not until much later, when I became a more serious student of the game of basketball and both teams faded from the ranks of Western Conference contenders, that I grew to appreciate what the Jazz had done and Sloan’s integral role in that success. I wasn’t alone. Nate McMillan, a backup guard on those Sonics teams before becoming a head coach, is almost reverential in the tones with which he discusses Sloan.

The theme of most of today’s commentary will surely be that Sloan was either one of his kind or the last of his breed, depending on your perspective. His departure leaves only one NBA coach (San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich) who has been in his position for more than seven years. His consistency, his longevity and his single-minded pursuit of winning basketball all make Sloan irreplaceable–even for fans of his rivals.

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