Jerry Sloan aims to coach in NBA again
BY GORDON MONSON Scripps Howard News Service May 20, 2013 12:09PM
FILE - This Dec. 3, 2010, file photo shows Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, in Salt Lake City. A person with knowledge of the situation says Sloan is stepping down as head coach of the Jazz. The person also told The Associated Press on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011, that longtime assistant Phil Johnson also will resign. (AP Photo/Colin E Braley, File)
Updated: May 20, 2013 12:10PM
Having interviewed the man hundreds of times and gone to his hometown in southern Illinois to trek down the dirt roads he walked as a kid, to talk with the people he’s known there for 60-plus years, to visit the rotting foundation of his boyhood home, to rummage through, among other old haunts, Don’s Liquor Hut on Route 242 into McLeansboro, I’ve come to this conclusion: Nobody can read Jerry Sloan’s mind.
And yet, that’s what I’m going to do here.
He’d just as soon whittle a block of wood on the back porch and come to his own conclusion about whatever issue is on his brain and settle that issue the way he’s always settled issues: by letting them sit until the sitting is done.
Sometimes the sitting takes a while. Sometimes it’s lightning quick, like the night he decided to quit coaching after having been the Utah Jazz’s captain for some 23 years.
Sloan now is considering a coaching comeback. At the age of 71, he’s talking to clubs about the prospects of taking over their team and seeing if he can’t do a little bit more winning — for them and for him — before he rides his John Deere into the sunset.
He could do exactly that — if that’s what he wanted. He’s healthy enough, smart enough, wise enough, with it enough, energetic enough, restless enough to go on coaching.
But he’ll do it only under specific conditions.
He only now would take a coaching job for a team where he doesn’t have to tear down the thing and/or construct it from the ground up. Why would or should he do that? He’s a Hall of Famer. A Hall of Famer with a whole lot of rings around the trunk, just not one on his finger. If anybody’s seen Jerry piddling around town, they know he looks great. He looks relaxed, happy and fulfilled. What he doesn’t look is ... done.
He’s got more to give.
A coach is what he is. It’s what he knows, what he does, what brings him satisfaction. Whoever said, “You’ve got to retire to something, not from something,” nailed it with Sloan. He didn’t retire to much, not by his measure.
Which means he has to ... well, you know.
If a team with talented players comes along that has underachieved, that hasn’t quite fulfilled its potential for whatever reason, one that could legitimately compete night in, night out with a fix here or there, Sloan would take that kind of job. If the team has ownership Sloan trusts to do the proper things, to treat him fairly, he would go to work for an outfit like that.
But just like he did — or didn’t do — with the interested Bucks, he’s not going to take or put himself in a position like that particular one. He won’t do it. He won’t take a job with a team unprepared to win. He won’t take a job with a team manned by players who won’t dial in.
He always said that was a fool’s errand.
But if Sloan found a team with solid ownership, a team with some talent, a team with conscientious players, a team with deep pockets, he would jump aboard that train, probably in short order.
What are the chances of that kind of offer coming his way?
If it does, good for him.
Here’s a more likely scenario: Sloan will become more and more active with the Jazz again. He’s already been attending a lot of games at EnergySolutions Arena. He was seen in Chicago this week at the NBA Combine, checking out things for the Jazz, advising them. And that’s what he’ll do more and more. He’ll take a paid advisory role in Utah, helping his old club find its way out of the transitional phase it’s thrashing through without taking upon himself all the stress and aggravation of being in the lead chair.
It makes sense for both him and the Jazz. Sloan needs a good place to focus his energy and expertise, and the Jazz need all the help they can get to make it through a challenging bounce-back.
So unless he gets the plum offer he wants and believes he deserves elsewhere, watch for Jerry Sloan to take a higher profile with the home team, his former team, his own team, the team upon whose Mount Rushmore his face was carved a long, long time ago.
And still is.