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I need time to process this / After some time processing…

February 11, 2011
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The Utah Jazz will always be Jerry Sloan’s team, and the Utah Jazz will never be the same again.

I am devastated. I teared up the moment the camera zoomed into the doorway of the room where the press conference was being held and showed Jerry standing outside. Hydration-wise, it was all downhill from there.

This was supposed to be the best year ever (in the post-Stockton&Malone era). Boozer was gone, Raja was back, AK wasn’t traded, and Big Al was the big offseason move and came in all bright sunny positivity. Instead…

I’ve read so many people’s comments today saying that they felt like their dad or grandfather died. Fans were breaking down publicly at school, at work…That’s it, right there. We may not have known Jerry personally, but he’s been a huge part of our lives. I wish he knew how much he meant to us.

A few more thoughts, many tears and hours later:

–I admire and respect the loyalty that Jerry and Phil have to and for each other.
–Part or much of the reason I’ve always loved the Jazz is because of the stability. The power rests in the hands of the coach, and the inmates are NOT running the asylum. It feels different now. It feels like the day has come when the Jazz become every other player-run franchise. It’s not my Jazz.
–We will probably never know what happened leading up to this point. The people that are posting accusatory comments on Deron’s FB page are so out of line.
–I should be celebrating the amazing joint career of Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson. I can’t. This hits too close to Stockton’s retirement. Maybe all of Arco Arena knew that he was gone during that last game at Sacramento, but I didn’t. Later, it emerged that Mark Jackson had been such a locker room cancer that he had driven Jerry to resign (LHM eventually talked him out of it), and Stockton essentially retired because he didn’t want to deal with the drama anymore. There was probably no major blowup or incident; Stockton just found all the crap no longer worth dealing with.

You can say that Stockton went out on his own terms, and in a sense he did in that he chose when to walk away. However, I still find it hard to accept that his retirement went down like that.

Today just reminds me of that. There probably weren’t any “him or me” ultimatums, and while both Deron and Jerry acknowledged that arguments did take place between them, that can’t be unusual. Deron is understandably upset about all the guns being pointed at him, but when he has been sniping at Jerry through the media all season (which I talked about just two days ago as something I found worrisome), he leaves the door open for everyone to put him in the chair of Suspect #1.

Jerry Sloan has been through a heck of a lot in his life, and he’s never run from a fight. Maybe he just got tired of dealing with moody drama crap from his players. It had to have been pretty bad for him to decide that he was done midway through the season. And that is why, even though Jerry and especially Phil seem to be at peace with their decision and you can say that they left on their own terms, I find it so hard to accept that this is how it happened.

You can say that coaches lose players, and you can say players stop listening. The former is passive; the second is active. Quoting Bulls official blogger Sam Smith (this piece a must-read, by the way):

I happened to be having a conversation with a Bulls player the other night about just such a thing. He said, unprompted, it’s your responsibility to listen to the coach. We were discussing some bad situations he felt he’d been put in. You may believe the coach is wrong or find he isn’t doing what’s best for you or think for the team, he said. But unless you listen and follow his directives, the entire system breaks down. It was interesting to hear this from a player who hasn’t always had coaches seem to do what’s best for him in his career. (bulls.com)

One more bit from Smith:

There’s this notion that old school is out, which we hear every decade or so, and the league’s nascent talents need fresh, young voices. But since when is accountability and responsibility passe’? Since when is discipline and professionalism unnecessary. Since when is respect unimportant?

–Lastly (for now), the Jazz as an organization need to thank their lucky stars for the class of these two. If it were almost any other coach, the ground would be lined with people thrown under buses. Heck, Phil Jackass wrote a book calling out his players while he was coaching them. Class, loyalty, and respect. Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson.

Jerry and Phil were the only coaches I’ve ever known, and only coaches I ever wanted to know. I’m heartbroke.

/First we lost John, then Karl, then LHM, then Hot Rod and now Jerry and Phil. WTF. This is the worst decade ever.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Jazzy Girl permalink
    February 11, 2011 7:22 am

    I cried listening to the press conference.

    I feel like I am lost in the desert, with not water, no direction, and no hope…

    Jerry and Phil are it for me too

    • February 11, 2011 7:25 am

      I am severely dehydrated. I just can’t believe it.

  2. February 11, 2011 10:44 am

    Same here. Appreciate the work, heart, and humor you have in this blog. Love the opposing teams’ blog recaps!!

  3. YGLiB permalink
    February 11, 2011 1:20 pm

    I had to walk out of work to listen to the press conference in my car even though they were listening to it inside because I knew I would cry.

    And as soon as Jerry choked up, I was a goner.

  4. February 11, 2011 8:49 pm

    @SL: Thanks for your kind words :)

    @YGLiB: I made the mistake of checking ESPN at work. They had a picture of Jerry wiping his eyes, and my waterworks were set off again.

  5. jbuxxy permalink
    February 11, 2011 11:34 pm

    I’m like you moni, I just cannot believe he is going out this way. I have no doubt that he’s seen/dealt with worse, but this is not how it is supposed to end. I just always pictured him finishing a season and then just not coming back, and when someone finally reaches him plowing a field on a tractor in Illinois he simply says, “I think I’m done”.

    I don’t blame Deron, he’s a competitor, and I know Jerry probably had it worse at times with Karl Malone. It’s unfortunate that the national media is making it about him and local Jazz fans are buying into it. I’m sure Deron never thought his words or actions would lead to Jerry leaving midseason, even when he publicly asked for change in style.

    I too am heartbroken, I cried at work during the press conference. I teared up the same time you did and lost it when his voice first cracked with emotion. It’s a new era of Jazz ball, but I’m not ready for it yet.

  6. chiselmcsue permalink
    February 11, 2011 11:35 pm

    the personifications of LOYALTY is betrayed in utah jazz, i never thought i would ever see that happen but it did…

    huge respect to phil johnson for sticking out with jerry…

  7. khatch914 permalink
    February 12, 2011 3:22 am

    Great article, expressed my thoughts perfectly. I think Jerry was hired when I was 3. I feel like a part of me died yesterday.

  8. February 12, 2011 4:39 am

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. No one in real life understands why I’m so devastated, but you guys do. I’m also so not ready for the new “era.”

  9. RRR permalink
    February 12, 2011 11:08 am

    Today, well yesterday, this event sucked!

    Today it still sucks!

    I did not like the news, I still don’t like it, but I myself have thought and sometimes with my fingers on the keys, that maybe he needed to move along so we could bleed a new hand on the court.

    Well approve or not, we get the new blood.

    I hope that Jerry can go home to IN, prep his farm and plant his own seeds this spring, water them and perform the harvest while personally lending a hand. It’s pretty rewarding to plant and harvest later on.

    Remember, we live in interesting times!

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