Jerry Sloan: A Man of Time, Passed By
He came, he saw, and for the most part, he conquered.
Jerry Sloan is no longer with the Utah Jazz for the first time in 23 years.
I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him. He’s not one to quit, and with having to re-broadcast all of those same, old, tired themes of him being a “hard worker” and “gritty”, he stayed around much longer than people expected. Between alcoholism, the death of his longtime (first) wife, and generally being employed in a profession that seemingly is closer to gladiator status than most people realize, Sloan fought the good fight and that should be commended. But…to be fair, despite the surprise and general shock about him leaving the Jazz, it was probably time.
Whether or not All-Star point guard Deron Williams was a significant factor in his exit (and I don’t really think so), one thing is for sure: Jerry Sloan was progressively getting disconnected from his players. While it is true that he really is no angel (not unlike the Gregg Allman classic), Sloan had a history of being difficult with his roster. Just in the past six years, Sloan passively called out Carlos Boozer for being injured and not playing, despite the fact that Booz really had serious hamstring injuries that required surgery and rehabilitation (and with muscle tears, you absolutely cannot go too fast); he didn’t exactly empower Andrei Kirilenko when AK-47 was having issues in transitioning from an All-Star year in 2004 to being a secondary player next to Boozer in the following seasons; and on top of that, Sloan was so systematic in his schemes that it can be questioned whether he actually fought hard enough with management to retain players that could’ve been helpful for the Jazz to keep winning big games (a major issue of Williams’).
I say all of this not to tear down Sloan or to make him seem like a deviant, plotting figurehead for the Jazz. No, he was one of the best coaches to in the history of the League, but it’s probably not fair to deify him, either — or to cast stones at players like Williams for not always agreeing with the gruff, ornery, somewhat disagreeable old man that Sloan has long been known to be. If nothing else, the Jazz can move on, start anew. The Miller family, who own the Jazz, have long gone back and forth about the viability of keeping such a franchise economically stable, and considering how the Jazz aren’t even making the Millers much net profit, having the face of the franchise leave in Sloan can probably give them an opportunity to thoroughly decide if they should keep, sell, or even move the Jazz elsewhere. Ultimately, if we’re all being real about the situation, Sloan and the Jazz weren’t going to win any championships any time soon, and seeing as to how most players don’t want to be bothered with going to Utah, there’s a chance that the Jazz are actually just like the Cleveland Cavaliers when it comes to acquiring free agents and stars. Nobody wants to be bothered with going to Salt Lake City unless Karl Malone and John Stockton are suiting up, and those guys aren’t ever coming back.
Sloan wasn’t the perfect coach for the Jazz, but he was the right coach, most of the time. He was the head man for 23 years, and so you’d naturally know that there’s a beginning and an ending in pretty much every station in life where there’s a boss-employee relationship involved. Sloan was the right coach for Utah, but as players changed, he for the most part did not. Change is constant in life. At some point, the old memes about being tough and “hard as nails” and all of those overworked (and ethnically veiled and sometimes ambiguous) statements about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” that are constant in the retelling of Sloan’s arrival into NBA kingdom may also be a part of his probable martyrdom, when it’s all really just about a guy who spent a lot of time and effort being the best that he could be at a job that he was really good at and eventually just lost a tad bit of his touch (and a few necessary tools) somewhere in the process…and he decided to go before he became his own worst enemy.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist, and fitness enthusiast whose work has been published by US News, Yahoo!, featured in Robert Atwan’s “America Now,“ and now in Buckets and Playmaker magazines. You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook and Twitter.