Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson KSL interview highlights
Jerry: I’ve been pretty busy. I went back to my farm a great deal of the time since I’ve been out. Had a lot of things had to clean up and try to get straightened out.
Do you sense how much you’re missed?
Jerry: It’s a little bit uncomfortable, but it hasn’t been too bad on the farm. They don’t want to chase you down there.
Phil: I’ve been back and forth at Bear Lake…there are a lot of fans up there and there are a lot of fans here. It’s nice for people to talk about it, but that’s just part of it I guess.
Phil: I also coached [fellow Utah Hall of Fame inductee] Natalie [Williams]‘ father in the NBA at Kansas City, Nate Williams.
Jerry: I couldn’t guard him.
Phil: Yeah, I tried to post Jerry up as much as possible.
Jerry: He posted me up about as well as anybody I ever played against. I couldn’t do anything with him.
What made your partnership work so well, for so long?
Jerry: You gotta remember, Phil coached me when I played, when he came to Chicago [as] assistant coach to Coach Motta. It was one of those relationships that evolved a great deal because our backgrounds are similar in a lot of ways. He was a farm person, and so was I, and I think those values came out in what we were trying to do. We were always fairly conservative as far as playing the game’s concerned. Phil’s a terrific teacher, and I tried to stay out of his way.
Phil: The philosophy of all that is very similar [due to Motta], and the one thing [Jerry] always did with me was gave me tremendous leeway as to what I was able to do. I could coach as much as I wanted, really…and I think we both learned that from Frank Layden, to involve your assistants and let them coach. Jerry did that with Ty and Scott a lot during practices, and there aren’t a lot of NBA teams that operate that way.
What drew you to basketball?
Phil: When I was at a young age, there was something about it that really intrigued me. Of course, I played other sports, but it was just something that I loved and loved to do. No one in my family went to college, so it wasn’t even, when I was young, thinking about playing college basketball. It was trying to make the high school team and then later on I thought about maybe coaching on a high school level.
Jerry: Well, I liked the fact that I was playing on the same team as three girls when I was in grade school. I think that’s what made me like the game so much (laughs). They were better than I was.
What do you miss most?
Jerry: Association with the players and the coaches. I had a great group of guys I worked with in the coaching department and a lot of things, good and bad, that came up as a coach you miss that, ’cause you have nothing to fight for now except a good meal.
Phil: It’s the relationships you have with one another…we were serious when we had to be serious, but we had a good time as far as having a sense of humor and telling stories and getting on each other and that type of thing…I miss that part as much as anything.
Butting heads with players
Jerry: I love the game of basketball and I thought there are certain things you have to hold players accountable for. I didn’t always do a good job, but that was one of my main goals to try to do that…I had a lot of players, we bounced around each other, but I also had a lot of players come back to me and tell me they appreciated that and hopefully it helped them.
Tom Kirkland: If there was an opportunity in the NBA post-lockout with a little more strength behind the ownership of the team, can you rule it out? (Emphasis mine; I just found that interesting.)
Jerry: You never rule it out because you’re not really sure…I’ve been in this organization 27 years and the last lockout’s really the only time I’ve been away from [basketball]. I think it was a good time for me to get out and reevaluate what’s going on, especially at my age, see how I felt after being out of it for a while…I still have pretty good energy for my age.
Kirkland: So if someone called you for a job, even though [Phil] says no [now], you’d call him, right?
Jerry: I’d call him, no question.
Phil: I think you never say never, but I’m saying probably not. I think you can’t rule out everything. I think you gotta be smart with what you do and know yourself and know what you want to do.
Phil: I just hope they get it worked out mainly for the fans and for the business people in this area.
Jerry: The biggest thrill was when John hit the shot over in Houston that sent us to Chicago. That was something that was very special, and it seems to still stick in your mind pretty strong.
Phil: I’ll go with that. We worked so hard. We tried for so many years; we met so many good teams…and to finally get over that hurdle, that was a huge game and a huge experience to get to go to the Finals. I don’t know that you can find one better than that. (KSL)
Frickin A…will the sight of Jerry and Phil ever stop making me simultaneously emotional and mad at the world?