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Jerry Sloan Interview Highlights

May 3, 2012
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ESPN Springfield interviewed Jerry Sloan a few days ago. Jerry was Jerry — humble and funny.

Are you wearing a John Deere hat right now?
Nah, my hair’s all messed up. When I go outside, I’ll put one on.

How did getting inducted into the Hall of Fame measure up against other moments in your career?
That was one of the highlights of my basketball career, really, when you think back on it. I thought I was gonna pass out before I got through it. That was a tremendous thrill for me because [it was] something I never anticipated and never knew was coming…course, being put in there with John [Stockton], who I had the opportunity to coach for all those years, was a tremendous thrill too.

What was it like coaching John and Karl [Malone], and how did their work ethic and leadership style feed into your method of coaching?
I had the opportunity to work with those guys individually before [Frank Layden stepped down], and that continued on to some extent….just being around them reminded me how important it is to spend a lot of time working [and] trying to make yourself better, and they did that every single day.

They stood the test every day, and that’s what every coach hopes he has with every player he has….that kind of leadership really helped our team to be as good as we could be almost every single day that we played. We had a bad game once in a while; I had plenty of bad days trying to coach. But they came back the next day and tried to make amends.

They were fun to coach, because their interest was winning, and that made it a lot easier for us to try to coach them.

Do players today have too much power, and is it frustrating that many coaches today are really just high-profile babysitters?

The show host references Deron here, calling him “Duh-ron.”

Well, the Deron Williams thing is in the past. I try not to get involved in that. Deron is a great player. Things didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, and it’s just one of those things that happened. I don’t think it can be perfect in any job and have everything work exactly the way you’d like for it to, but life goes on.

Basketball goes on, regardless of who’s involved as coach and player. Obviously, I think the players are the winners in most of those cases, so it hasn’t been a real plus to get involved in them.

If anyone’s wondering, Jerry said the last bit very matter-of-factly with no Phil Jackson-esque snarky sneak insult element.

On watching basketball from a different perspective
I watch a lot of basketball games and enjoy what other people try to do and see what other teams do with their coaching and I’ve enjoyed that, because there hasn’t been any pressure to win, and losing doesn’t bother me that way. (laughs) I don’t have to be the loser.

Were there players that you enjoyed coaching that you felt didn’t get the credit they deserved?
Yeah, a number of guys. Mark Eaton, Thurl Bailey. Shandon Anderson came in here as a rookie and started for us a number of times his rookie year. Howard Eisley. The list goes on and on, the guys that never got the recognition, but they were certainly very, very important in what we were trying to do as a team.

Before Michael Jordan, you were the most famous Bulls player in history. Did you ever encounter players in your later years that were unaware of or even shocked at what you accomplished as a player?
Jerry: (pause) I don’t know if I understand exactly what you’re saying. My phone kind of…

Show host: Were any of your players unaware of the success that you had as a player before you were a coach?

Jerry: Oh, I tried to keep that out of the [something] that I played. I wasn’t a very good player. I was lucky I played with a bunch of great guys.

Show host: You were a good player. (2x All-Star; 6x All-Defense)

Jerry: I had fun. I don’t know if anyone had more fun playing basketball than I did. But the young players, I wouldn’t expect them to [know], ’cause they live in a different time as far as basketball’s concerned than what I did.

Thoughts on the Western Conference
I think it’s wide open myself. San Antonio’s had a great year, and Popovich does a great job. Oklahoma City. You look at a team like the Lakers. If they get everything going right, they could really be good, and they are good…

I look at the Jazz, I think they* have a terrific young team. I think if they get just a little bit of confidence, somebody’s gonna have to play awfully hard to knock them out. That’s the way I see it…

Memphis moved up in a lot of people’s eyes [after knocking out SAS last year], and they’re back in there again. The Clippers, you got Chris Paul out there and those guys are tough to beat. I think it’s fun, because I don’t really look at one team as a team that’s gonna march right through it. There’s gonna be some seven-game series, I think, in a lot of these rounds.

* :( at Jerry saying “they.”

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