Bits from Jerry Sloan Night
This is a different video than the other one previously posted. If you don’t read any of this, that’s fine. Just watch the first 20 seconds to see Greg Ostertag’s comments (there’s a Jeff Hornacek segment in between). Others speaking about Jerry in the video: Doc Rivers, Lenny Wilkens, Doug Collins, Karl Malone, Frank Layden, John Stockton and Gail Miller.
** On what it means to see his name up in the rafters with other Jazz greats
It’s a real honor to be just mentioned in the same breath with all of those guys. I, it’s a little bit strange, because I had my number retired when I played in Chicago. And when I walked back in there for the first time, it was kinda shocking. I thought I’s still playing in Chicago. I’m a Utah person now, thick and th–through thick and thin.
** Which of the 1,223 wins was your favorite?
I thought that’s how many technical fouls I had. I said, “Well, this is a great setup for me. If, they don’t have to go too far to come up with some number.” … I just think I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. And things fell in place because of the kind of people we have, and it was a great run. Really a great run.
** Do you ever think it would’ve been nice to win a Coach of the Year award?
No, I don’t. Coach of the Year award is, something I’ve always thought about Coach of the Year award, it should be a staff [award]…Our staff, Phil Johnson, Kenny Natt, Gordon Chiesa, all these people, they worked their butts off. And you don’t win unless you have guys willing to pay the price to help you win, because one guy can’t do it alone.
** Do you ever think “What if we’d have won a championship”?
No, I don’t play that game. That’s, you know, our guys put everything they had into it every time we played. Chicago beat us, and, first time. The hardest thing is after that happens, after being beaten, is to come back and try it again. These guys laid their butt out there on the line, to try to make it work second time. But we lost to a great team, great player, and nothing to feel bad about. That’s the way basketball is. That’s kinda the way life is sometimes.
** On Karl Malone and John Stockton
I was Frank [Layden]’s assistant coach and I had a couple of opportunities to leave. And I know that watching these two guys everyday, I was, I don’t know if I was smart enough, but I certainly thought these guys are gonna be pretty good. And they were pretty good, because they put a lot into it. I have gained way too much credit for what I’ve done, and these guys deserve more credit for what they did.
** What does it mean to you to see other people getting emotional about you?
Well, it knocks you off your feet. I, John Crotty walked in and I hadn’t seen him and he came in, and I saw John, and I mean, I think I got too emotional…That really got to me. The more you see guys, when you see Karl and John, it just, after you’ve been away for a period of time, it’s, gets to be emotional, because we went through a lot. Ups and downs, good things and the bad…There are a lot of memories there.
** What goes through your mind when you see former players that showed up?
These guys were willing to go back and work the next day. That’s what comes to mind. Howard Eisley, and Bryon Russell, you know, he was a center in college…Coaches worked with him, and he became a 3-man in the NBA. And we were really in trouble, I believe it was in Portland in the playoffs one year, and I finally got over my stubborn spell and put Bryon out there. And he maintained that from that point on. He maintained the job because he had done all the work to try to make himself better. And when he got the opportunity, that’s what all these guys have done…They weren’t content just to go to the gym and show up. They go and worked themselves into being better players.
** You are a treasure in this community.
People have been great to me here. They were great to me when I played in Chicago, and I’m a very lucky man…working with Frank and Phil Johnson and all these people that’s stuck there with us all the years. And have the Miller family do what they’ve done today, and I fought it off as long as I felt like I could, but I remember what they did when Bobbye passed away. They brought the plane back to southern Illinois, and brought every, all the [LHM] employees that wanted to go, and I’ll never forget that.
** To Jerry
Playing hard was easy, because you played the game. Coach, you played the game; you guys did it, and I didn’t want to disappoint you guys. So I just want to say, I’m honored to be here. It’s a great day. And I’m finally glad you guys were able to twist his arm enough for him to do it. And Coach, you know, we love you. I love you, man, and like I said, you’re the best.
** Favorite Jerry Sloan story?
Well, one of them was, he taught my [oldest] daughter, he taught her her fra–her word, her first word, one of her first words, was–“puck.” So, you add the rest of it…I brought her to the game one day, practice. So we get in the car. She said, “Dad, puck.” I said, “No, no, baby. We went to a basketball game.” She said, “No, puck.”
** What kind of things drove Jerry crazy?
A fancy pass. A ill-advised shot. Me shooting a three, even though I made a few. It would drive him crazy. [in rumbly, raspy Jerry voice] “Dammit. You’re gonna do that again, aren’t you?”
** On accountability
Nowadays, we want to take the credit when we play great; when we lose, it’s somebody else’s fault. So Coach Sloan always had us, held us accountable in the locker room. But one thing he always did, when he came out and talked to the media, he always took all the blame. Which, to me, that’s a stand-up person, ’cause a lot of people don’t do that now.
** On his workout routine
I’ve been working. I get up about 4:30 a.m. About two hours, two and a half hours of training at home, and then I go out, logging with one of my sons….I’m a better person when I train. And I’m not training for anything particular, other than, you know, to be in, you know, good shape. I tend to, my mind work a little bit better when I train, so I started doing that again. And I’ve been really good…My favorite time is when no one’s up but me. And I’m able to get in there, put my music on, and just get into my little world.
What are you listening to?
Well, it depends. I love country, but I love, really love the Commodores, the Isley Brothers, Lakeside, Garth Brooks…it just depends. I’m all over. Nickelback.
** On Jerry Sloan
You could write a book. You could do magazines. You could do 15 documentaries, and I don’t know if you’d ever capture the depth of Jerry Sloan the man. Some places he’s very simple, and other places he’s very deep. And I’m not sure I get to the bottom of it, but I’m sure proud of the relationship. I’m, I appreciate, I know that he cares about me, and I feel like he cared about all his players. But I always felt some sort of special kinship with Jerry. I still do. You know, from a father figure, coach, big brother, to the relationship we had as a coach and player, and then even a friend, and that’s very special for me. It’s one of those very, very few.
** What kind of things drove Jerry crazy?
Not being prepared. Not respecting your teammates. If you separated yourself from the team, you untuck your shirt when everybody else’s is tucked in. You going right when everybody else is going left. Anything that separated from the team.
** What do you miss about being around Coach Sloan?
I just miss him. To walk on the bus everyday and having him sitting in the front seat and just kinda giving you a nod, and knowing that we were going back to work again today. Or seeing him in the gym or at the arena. Those, getting a chance to talk in the hotel afterward. You know, those are things you just can’t replace…You miss him more than the games.
** On the X’s and O’s side of Jerry’s coaching
Often with the X’s and O’s, he trusted his assistants. Gordon Chiesa. Phil Johnson. Those guys really knew the X’s and O’s in and out, and he would tweak it. I mean, being a player and playing so long and so effectively like he did, he’d say, “Hey, I think we should do this,” and we’d have a slight adjustment, and we’d have a slight-counter to a defense that changes, and I think that’s where he wa–his expertise excelled.
** On Jerry Sloan making his players better people
Frank Layden used to tell me, he says, “Look, if you’re coaching and you’re not making your players better people, then you’re not doing a very good job of coaching.” And I think about that moving forward for my own self when I’m coaching kids, but I also think back and say, “Yeah…he must’ve said that same thing to Jerry” because I think he made all of us better in a lot of ways.
** On being “known” only to older generations
I’ve got a really close-to-home example of that. I’ve coached all my children. We have six children. My youngest is Samuel. He’s 12 years old, and when we moved back [to Spokane] after I was done playing, I started coaching his soccer team. They’re very young; second grade, first grade, somewhere in that area. And coached the soccer team, and their basketball team. And I remember one of the young men told his mom, “I don’t know what kind of basketball coach Coach Stockton is, but he really knows his soccer.” And to me, that just illuminated, you know, that that generation or from that point forward, they have no idea what we’ve been through here.
** Why were you and Karl Malone such a great duo?
Well, I think anybody that had a chance to play along Karl would be one of the most impressive duos ever to play the game. He really is special. And the more I’m away from it, you talk about perspective of being away from it awhile, and you watch young kids, young NBA players play, and you, I remember so vividly what Karl did and could do, and did it every night. And he did it against numerous teams, and he did it when the foul rules were more physical. They did, you could hand-check, you could do all these things, and yet this man succeeded. Anyway, I think anybody’d be a success with him. Our talents meshed a little bit. I wasn’t a score-first, I wasn’t looking to score all the time, and we needed a guy that was. And he took that burden, wore the yoke, and went to work.
** On the Jazz honoring Jerry Sloan
It was long overdue…but it was good catching up with guys that you haven’t seen in a lot of time, and to see Coach Sloan being honored, to see guys talk about him the way they have and maybe never had the opportunity to express, it’s been good.
** What’s the worst thing Jerry ever said to you in practice?
I don’t know if I can speak on the worst thing, but he didn’t know my name. So, we’ll start with that. To this day, he still call me “Hero.”
** What’s the one thing you take away that you learned from Jerry?
Patience. He taught me, ’cause when I first came in, I was a little hot-headed. Thought I can do everything, and I had to sit and learn…No disrespect to Ty Corbin or David Benoit, but I thought I was better than them. But [Jerry] made me wait patiently, and, but once I got that shot, [Greg Foster throat slash], it was a wrap.
** Last question: Did Michael Jordan still push off?
Absolutely. Ask Howard that question too.
Eisley: [silently looks at B-Russ; pause] Yeah, uh yeah. He pushed off.
** On Jerry Sloan: I really can’t thank him enough for what he (has) done for my career. As a player, as a person, he was just there every time I needed him. (DN)