Hombre? Baby, I’ll give you hombre: Jerry Sloan the Player
One. There is possibly something illegal going on in this photo, but don’t let that detract from this moment.
Two. During Jerry’s fourth year in Chicago, the Bulls were fighting to keep their season alive and had to win four out of five games in five nights to make the Playoffs. They won their first three games, but Jerry broke two ribs and separated his sternum when Lew Alcindor [i.e. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] knocked him down with just seconds to go in the third game.
“[The doctor that met the team at the airport that night] told us that Sloan shouldn’t go, that he should stay home. But Jerry insisted on going just to be with the team. We just needed one more win. The next day I went to the arena, and Sloan was there. He said, ‘I couldn’t sleep. I’ve been walking around. I’ve found this little corset thing. Let me warm up.’
“I said, ‘No, I’m not gonna let you,'” Motta recalled. “He said, ‘Coach, you gotta let me warm up.’ So he warmed up … Later…he came up to me and said, ‘You know I’ve never asked you to do one thing. I’ve never told you to do one thing. I’m gonna ask one favor now.’
“I said, ‘What’s that, Jerry?’
“He said, ‘If I were you, I’d start me.’
“I started him,” Motta said, “and he couldn’t raise his arm. Chet Walker and I had to stretch the uniform to get him in it. His ribs were broken, but he just wouldn’t quit. We were down three early in the second half, and Cincinnati called a quick timeout. In the huddle, Jerry said, ‘C’mon guys, let’s go. We’ve come from 33 down before.’
“I looked up at the clock and said, ‘Jerry, what’s wrong?’
“He said, ‘Oh, I thought we were down 33.’
“The pain was so excruciating that he was incoherent,” Motta said. “He was going on an empty tank. We won the game in overtime, and made the playoffs. I was able to rest Jerry the last game, and he played in the playoffs.”
(“Stockton to Malone: The Rise of the Utah Jazz” by Roland Lazenby)
Three. Those are some threads. [That’s a checkered jacket on the left.]
Before the start of each game, four of the Bull’s starters–forwards Walker and Love, center Cliff Ray and guard Norm Van Lier–lope nonchalantly one by one onto the court and gently tap each other’s hands as they line up.
And then Sloan sprints out like an enraged bull, skids to a halt in front of his teammates with his scarecrow arms raised in the air like a pair of triphammers, then smashes his teammates’ waiting palms with blows that echo in the balconies. …
One day last season, Van Lier came to Motta with an unusual request. “Coach,” he said, “we all agree that Jerry should come out for the introductions first, not last. That slap he gives […] he’s so charged up, some day he’s gonna break somebody’s wrist.” (cleveland.com)
Five. Jerry crossover, spin, jumper, nothing but net:
Six. One of the words most often used to describe Jerry is “loyal.” How many of you would be willing to pack on 30 pounds for your boss? As Hot Rod tells it:
With the Jazz [Jerry] was a very loyal assistant coach to Frank Layden–so loyal he gained 30 pounds one year running around with Frank. Those were the days when Frank weighed about 280. If Frank wanted to go somewhere to eat after a game, Jerry went with him because Frank was the boss. Jerry gained weight like crazy…That’s the worst time to eat, late at night when you don’t digest the food before you go to bed. But that was a point of loyalty. A lot of coaches go their own way but Jerry knew Frank wanted him with him. Jerry was always there for him. (“You Gotta Love it Baby,” Rod Hundley)
Not a “playing days” story, but I had to include this.
Seven. The first Chicago Bull. The first number to be retired by the Chicago Bulls. After the Bulls retired Jerry’s jersey in 1978, it hung all by its lonesome at Chicago Stadium for 16 years. And he’s still the toughest of them all.
I know that I’ll have occasion to say these words again one day, but I wholeheartedly hope that that day is not in the near future and still way, way down the line: Only coach I’ve ever known, only coach I ever want to know.
(Over the years, we’ve heard many an analyst say that Jazz teams take on the character or mentality of Jerry Sloan. Can you imagine how far we could go if this actually happened?
/pulse racing just thinking about it…
…and on that note, onto the 2010-2011 season!)