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Jeff Van Gundy and Thurl Bailey Talk Jerry Sloan

February 1, 2014
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(More Jerry Sloan posts coming in the next few days…)

Jeff Van Gundy

“Jerry Sloan.” What pops into your mind?
Integrity. I think, you know, my last game coaching in the NBA was losing to them in a Game 7, and you don’t, you hate losing to anybody, particularly in the playoffs, but when you lose to Jerry Sloan–and I often think “Phil Johnson” with Jerry Sloan–you’re talking about men’s men. And men of integrity, and Jerry was certainly that.

Obviously, a really, you know, like a fine, fine basketball coach, but I think I’ll always think of him as, like, one of the great competitors, but a competitor who did it with incredible integrity…You knew [playing against Jerry’s teams] was no-BS competition. It was may the best man, or the best team, win that night.

And he was just, you know, he was true. He was a true guy. I just loved watching his teams play. I loved watching him coach. And I, even though I got my butt kicked more often that not, I loved trying to compete against his teams.

Favorite Jerry Sloan story?
I was coaching in Houston. I believe, Kirk Snyder, who I then later got to coach in Houston, was either a rookie or a second-year player for Jerry. And this was one of his worst teams, I believe, that he had there.

And so, we were locked, we were in Utah. We were locked into a, we were ahead most of the way and then Snyder got a chance, ’cause he wasn’t in the regular rotation, and he came in and he played great. And he changed the whole tide of the game. And then there was a play in front of our bench, where he sort of taunted our bench, Snyder did, after like a, he got fouled, a three-point play opportunity.

Came right to the sideline, and the referee didn’t see it or didn’t do anything. So I, then, went nuts, first at Snyder and then at the official. I got a technical foul. And immediately, I see Jerry get up, and I think he’s yelling at me. But he’s not. He’s yelling at Snyder, and you know, in his colorful language.

And then he immediately took Snyder out, and did not put him in the rest–this was the fourth quarter of a close game. And ultimately, we won. And I really do believe that, you know, they could’ve won if Snyder had been left in because he was on that type of roll.

But Jerry was such a guy of integrity, that he’s not gonna overlook his principles to try to get a win, and he wasn’t gonna tolerate Snyder, you know, disrespecting our bench. And how many guys would do that in today’s NBA, or today’s professional sports? I think very, very few. And, you know, I just, I mean, that’s just one of many [stories].

I mean, that guy, like, to me, was everything you would hope to be as far as a guy coaching his team as hard and as well as he can. I also thought he kept it in great perspective. You know, right after the game he put on his John Deere hat. He was out of there enjoying his life. But when he was at the arena and when he was with his team, he was coaching as hard and as passionately as anybody.

On Jerry Sloan’s longevity
Whenever you last that long as a coach in any one spot, it’s great, great coaching, and you have great players, okay? But the other thing you have is incredibly understanding and smart ownership. You look at how Larry Miller supported his coaches, and he stood forth.

And he and Jerry may have butted heads behind the scenes and may not have agreed on everything (audio cuts out) but they agreed on the importance of the coach and on the respect for the coach (audio cuts out) And so, when, you know, Jerry Sloan butted heads at times with Karl Malone, Karl Malone knew he couldn’t go over Jerry Sloan’s head to management or ownership. (audio cuts out) This was Jerry’s ship to run.

So, I think they had this unique blend, and it came together all at the same time, of great ownership in Larry Miller, you know, an incredibly great Hall of Fame coach, and then, you know, multiple Hall of Famers. Plus, I think [Jeff] Hornacek gets overlooked in all of that, how he helped them reach that next level. You put those five people, and then, you know, management, certainly. Kevin O’Connor, and you know, Scott Layden before that. I mean, they hit it just right. …

I didn’t know Larry great, but having competed that many times, he always came down to speak briefly, like before games or after games, whether we won or lost, and I always appreciated his genuineness and his love for NBA basketball. (KALL)


On the pain Jerry Sloan used to inflict with his giant hands and his butt
You hear people talk about the toughness, historically, of Jazz teams. Well, that’s where it came from. You know, it came from the coach on down. You know, the coach has to instill that, and then the players have to go and show it.

But even in practice, I mean, when Jerry was demonstrating things to us, like how to take care of the basketball, you know, you’ve seen Jerry’s hands, and how thick his fingers are and he had this big ol’ ring on. And he would, you’d hate to be the one he called to demonstrate, ’cause if you were, you knew something was gonna be hurting when he was done. True story.

So, you know, and he’d try to explain how to hold on to the basketball, and then he would take his hand, you knew it was coming, and you better not flinch either. He would come down on your hand and try to knock that ball out. Usually knocked it out; you couldn’t hold on to it tight enough.

Or he would drive his, his, his butt into your legs on teaching you how to box out. And so, he was right there in the thick of it, teaching like he was still playing. And that’s what you really respected about him, because he didn’t just talk it.

On the role that Larry “White Rhino” Miller played in Jerry Sloan’s longevity
We talk about Jerry[‘s longevity], but he had the full support of Larry H. Miller. And he also understood that when he was reaming us out for something, and all of a sudden we heard what John [Stockton] would call the “White Rhino” coming down the hallway, that [Jerry and Larry] were always in unison.

And that’s the beauty, I think, of Jerry being able to, us being able to celebrate Jerry tonight, is the fact that he was in a place that had the respect and had the loyalty to him, for him to be able to do what he did. And not a lot of coaches had, you know, had that.

Favorite Jerry Sloan moment?
I used to love to see him stomp…you always knew when that stomp was coming. The other thing I really liked was the fact that whenever somebody on the floor, a player from the Jazz, got in some kind of a tussle, Jerry was the first one out on the court.

Yeah, and he was the fir–and sometimes not necessarily to break it up. Seriously. No, he was getting in your face…

I’m telling you, I always knew who my money was on…Jerry just was not afraid of anybody or anything. And to contrast that with when it was done, and it was off the court, there was this really nice man. (1280)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2014 10:05 pm

    That Kirk Snyder story is one of my clearest memories of the post-Stockton/Malone Jazz years, and a perfect example of why I stayed a Jazz fan. It was clear that even if the players changed, Jerry still was in charge and the team was expected to play the game the right way.

    I was worried when Jerry resigned that this was changing, as Deron Williams was seeming to do what he wanted at that point. The fact that Williams was traded shortly afterwards was another key moment that showed the team came before any one player’s antics.


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