Where Are They Now: Greg Ostertag
What are you up to these days?
Just living down here in Arizona. Closest thing to hell you can get…I do typical retired guy stuff…I hang out with my kids. And I play golf. I fish. I hunt. I play hockey.
You play hockey?!
Yup, two nights a week.
What do you play? Are you a goaltender?
Oh, no. I play forward.
So can you actually skate skate?
When did you pick up hockey?
I played when I was younger, like, young ‘un, six, seven years old in Dallas. And then obviously I got too tall and got away from it. And when I got done [with basketball], I wanted something to do, you know, fun activity that’s not hard on the knees…I picked it up about six years ago.
Would you say you enjoyed your career? Is there anything you’d do differently if you could go back?
I enjoyed my career. I, you know, looking back on it, I’d’ve done a lot of things different. You know, I wouldn’t’ve fought Jerry [Sloan] so much. You know, everybody says when you get older, you get wiser, and you get a little more mature. I understand now why he was on my butt everyday.
What kind of impact did Jerry have on you?
When I was playing for him, I hated him. (laughs) …
He’s had a big impact on, especially my career after, or my life after basketball, ’cause you know, I look back a lot on the way my career went and the run-ins him and I had, and now, e–you know, everybody used to say, you know, if he didn’t care he wouldn’t yell at you. I thought he cared way too much sometimes.
But you know, looking back on it, he was really, he really was doing it in my best interests. And I fought it and fought it, and you know, now I see what was going on. And I’ve tried to use that, things he would tell me in basketball, in my everyday life. And you know, I think I’m a better person for it. I see how I more was wrong in my younger days, and he was right.
So what were the things he rode you about? Were there particular things he got into you over?
It was pretty much the same stuff all the time. It’s just, it was, for me, it was, in my head, I’m 7-foot. I don’t need to be as prepared, as ready ’cause I can use my height and size…
The one thing people would be so upset with me about is I would come and play and have a great, you know, a good game or a great game one game, and then disappear for four or five games. Whereas, you know, guys like John [Stockton] and Karl [Malone] would have three or four or five games that were, you know, what everybody expected them to do, and then they’d have an off-game.
And my inconsistency is what, you know, I think frustrated fans, frustrated me, and I know it frustrated Jerry. And you know, it was, it’s just more preparation stuff that I regret not doing, and being prepared better for, it’s a job, but you know, my everyday basketball life. …
I learned a lot [from my career]. I just didn’t know I learned it until after I got done.
Was it difficult playing alongside John and Karl?
I don’t think it was difficult. I think they set a bar that, you know, other guys were expected to live up to. And, but, I don’t, at the time I thought it sucked, but now, I thought, I think, you know, again, I was just looking back. I think it’s a good thing, the bar they set.
You know, they came to play and work everyday, and played hard everyday. And they’re gonna have bad days; it’s just part of being human. But they were ready to go everyday and you know, they played hurt. And so, when, you know, when you got hurt with us, you kinda got made fun of because they played all the time.
What, they missed, up until John hurt his knee that one year, they missed a combined, what, four games in their whole career? So, but I enjoyed playing with them everyday. They, that combination made basketball easier because they drew so much attention.
If, and you know, if you put yourself in the right position, you were gonna be able to get a big rebound or a bucket, or you know, something to help the team out just ’cause they drew so much attention.
On successful coaching and Jeff Hornacek
I still think the teams that are successful are the teams that are, you know, teams that execute and where the coach is more in control of the team. …
I think when you get teams that buy into what a coach is trying to do, and not fight the coach–I don’t care if it’s up and down as fast as you can go or coming down and running the set offense and making a team play defense for 22 seconds to get the shot you want–it works.
It’s, you know, to me the teams that don’t, aren’t successful are the teams that go out there and they have their own idea, the players have their own idea of how things are run. And you can see it in the coach’s face. You know, he’s just kinda over there as a figure that’s supposed to be a coach. …
Great example. [Jeff Hornacek], Horny, down here. He’s done a great job with a team that nobody expected him to do anything with. They missed the playoffs by one game. And people ask me about it, and I said, “Look. If they’ll listen to what he has to say, and play the way he asks them to play, they’re gonna be successful.”
Just is how Horny is. I mean, we’d be in the huddle in timeouts, and Horny would, you know, basically draw the play up, or say, “Let’s look at it this way,” and both Phil [Johnson] and Jerry would be, “Okay, let’s do it that way.” So, Horny’s gonna be really successful, especially if you can get him a, you know, another couple good players down here.
Did Michael Jordan push off?
Hell yeah, he pushed off. But you’re not gonna call that call, in that game, on that player, you know, in that situation. He made a great shot.
You were with the Jazz during Deron Williams’ rookie year. People in Salt Lake feel Deron Williams ran Jerry Sloan out. Do you agree with that?
I don’t know what happened with that, so I can’t say yes or no. I just don’t see a guy like that, like Jerry, stopping coaching–something he absolutely loved to do–for any other reason than he [no longer had] control of what was going on. And Jerry’s not that type of guy, you know? He’s wan–he’s a guy that, I won’t say he wants to be in control, but he is in control of what’s going on.
And I think it goes back to what I said earlier. [When players] buy into what he as a coach is trying to do, then they’re successful. If players start fighting what he’s trying to do, then Jerry’s like, “You know what? I don’t have time for this crap. It’s, you know, it’s not, it doesn’t mean that much to me where Imma have to fight you everyday.”
But you know, and I’m not taking away from anything then, ’cause he loves to coach. He’s very competitive. There were plenty of times when, you know, we were playing bad, he’d tell us, “I’ll fight every one of you,” ’cause that’s how bad he wanted to win.
Was the Jerry Sloan era as special and unique as we think?
Oh, every day. Every day. You know, we, I’ll tell you how special it was. During the Jerry Sloan era, we ran the same play every game…We would call a play and teams would look at their bench and say, “They’re running this.” And the coach would say, “This is what’s gonna happen.” It was happening, and we’d still score.
That’s special, that you can run, and that’s what I talked about, execution. Teams that buy into what the coach is trying to do…That’s why it’s special, because we didn’t change the way we played or the plays we ran to keep up with the Joneses. We ran the plays that were successful, and, for us, for 20 years…
We ran the same plays everyday, and they worked, everyday. And so, it’s, that’s why I think it’s special, because we had an understanding. This is how we’re gonna run it. It’s gonna work. Just do the way, just run the way we ask you to run it, and it’s gonna work. And it did. Everyday. (1320)
If you enjoyed this interview, you’d probably like this interview with Antoine Carr from April last year as well.