Bits from Greg Ostertag Interview, 2/21
Where Are They Now: Greg Ostertag (2014)
Jerry Sloan recounts the infamous ice bag incident
On his relationship with Jerry Sloan
You know, I think the one thing I learned now that I’m older and wiser is that all those times Jerry was yelling at me and I thought it was [his] fault, it was my fault.
Who are you most excited to reunite with at the ceremony?
I’m excited to see them all, but (long pause during which Tag gets teary, which in turn gets me going) I’m really excited to see Jerry. Because I love him to death, and I hate what he’s going through. ‘Cause that’s not the Jerry Sloan I knew. And I know it’s tearing him apart, and it kills me.
I try to call him to ca–I try to call him to talk to him on the phone. I can’t, ’cause I get emotional…I know we had our ups and downs, but I love him to death and I, it kills me to see him like that…
The one great thing about Jerry was no matter what happened, most of the time especially with me, he’s, w–no matter what happened the next day, the night before, the next day, he was always like, good morning, you know, and he gave you a high-five. And you know, 99 percent of the time it was over. There are times when him and I carried it over, which, again, my fault.
Best memory of your career?
Probably most likely John [Stockton]’s shot. I mean, that was phenomenal. That was probably the best playoff game I’d ever played for the Jazz, and I fouled out and I was so bummed that I didn’t even watch the last play. I was over there, I had my head down — and not pouting, but just nervous.
And all I — I had to watch the replay to really see what had happened. I just, you know, the, it went in, John hit the shot, and all of a sudden I heard everybody jumping and screaming.
And the one thing I remember most about that replay was Greg Foster and Stephen Howard were sitting next to each other, and when they got up to run on the court, Greg was flailing his arms and punched Stephen Howard in the face. And I just remembered seeing that.
But it was so fun, ’cause, you know, you never saw a lot of reaction out of Jerry, as far as on a win, or something like that. And to see him throw his arms up in the air and with, and be jubilant and excited, and Phil [Johnson] too, and all, and just everybody was, I mean, that was a — and it was funny, because I said in a post-game interview, I said, “We’ll be back at so-and-so time. It’s plenty of time for people from St. George to drive up.”
And I got off the plane, and we were on the, what we on, the, I can’t remember, we were going out somehow at the gate and this, these two guys go, “We drove up from St. George!”…
To see something like that, that Utah had been waiting for since they moved there, to have ourself in position to win an NBA title, was, it was just fun to see the state come together like that and see two guys drive up from St. George…just to come celebrate at 1 o’clock in the morning.
Being older and wiser, I’ve got a lot of regret in my life, and, one of that is not being the player for those guys that I could’ve been and should’ve been, and taking for granted that I was 7-foot, and only being as good as I was at that time and not doing any better.
You know, Bobbye and, Bobbye Sloan and John and Karl [Malone] were always telling me, if he wasn’t yelling at you, he doesn–he wouldn’t care about you. Well, at times I thought he cared a little too much, but you know, looking back, I blew that.
I just, you know, I looked at it like, you know, if things were going wrong it was my fault regardless of who screwed up…I regret it, and I know Jerry only wanted the best for me, and la–you know, as I got older and look back, I, it’s one of those things that I blew, I didn’t take advantage of…
It came down to — I would say I loved playing the game. I’m pa–I’m competitive and I like to win and I hate losing. I just didn’t have the work ethic I should’ve had. That’s essentially what it comes down to, period.
What happened with Shaq?
We had just beat them in the play–in, to go to the Western Conference Finals, I think…[Shaq] was the best big man in the league that time, and they had asked him something in the locker room about, you know, hey, I, something to the effect that, you know, hey, Greg Ostertag had a pretty good game, pretty good two games against you, blah, blah, blah.
And Shaq said something like Greg Ostertag can’t, you know, hold my blah, blah, blah; whatever it was.
Well, it came to me and instead of taking the high road, I got livid and my answer was, well, Shaq’s going home to play golf. I’m going to the NBA Western Conference Finals. So, you know, me being naive, I thought it was over. (laughs)
So we played them, what, first game of the next year, and I walk–we were going out for shootaround and he gets in my face and I mean, we were nose to nose and he said something — he said, “Better watch your mouth,” something like that.
And I said, “You started it!” And all of a sudden, that big giant glove comes out of nowhere. He didn’t hit me. He didn’t slap me. He didn’t pun–he just put his hand on — I wasn’t expecting him to put his hand on the side of my head and fr–and push me down. And that’s all it was.
On basketball today
I don’t watch a whole lot of basketball now because it’s not the basketball I grew up on. It’s not, you know, it’s, they don’t play basketball really the way that we played 20 years ago. You know, if you remember, teams used to…hate to play us because we would actually screen you, and screen you hard.
And we would box you out, and you know, we would run an offense and we would take 20 seconds off the shot clock if we needed to. You know, we’d get a layup on a fast break, y–we’re gonna get a layup. But if we didn’t, I mean, how many times in John and Karl’s career, did we run four up to start the game and John got a layup off that and everybody knew it was coming?
And it’s just, it just comes down to, you know, we just, we would out-execute people, and set screens and box out and get the shot more or less that we wanted rather than what you wanted.
And — I guess I’m just old school. I just don’t enjoy watching the way basketball’s played now. It is what it is. I mean, I know people pay to see those guards run up and down the court and jack up threes and dunk and all that stuff, but I, you know, I’d like to see these new-age teams play against some older teams back in the late 80s, early 90s…
I mean, look at San Antonio. In the big picture, they’re kind of boring. But they’re the best team in the West and they’re competitive every year. They lost probably, arguably, the best four-man — and that’s not a knock against Karl — but the best four-man ever to play the game* to retirement, and they’re still the best team in the West, or se–I’m sorry, second best team in the West.
* Oh no he di’int!
On the urban legend about the time he threw a bag of ice at Jerry Sloan (also, UDQM)
It wasn’t at Jerry. It was just — it was after the game, actually. And I can’t remember — I think it was Houston. And it was one of those deals where, you know, Jerry was riding me and I was just, got to the tipping point.
He was something to me or something, something, something — I don’t know, I, you know what Jerry’s formula was. “Hey Greg,” you know, softly, gently. (laughs)
No, he had said something to me. He was chewing on me, you know, and I said, I just, I turned around and g–I bent down and picked it up and it went flying. And actually, it went, not at Phil Johnson, but past Phil Johnson. So, yeah. I’m not gonna lie. It happened.
** Ostertag to Gordon Monson: I’m out here, I’ve got cows and chickens and donkeys, and I named one of my donkeys after you…It’s the dumb one that always runs into the fence.
** Interview ends with this from Ostertag: Gordon, I’ll take a picture of my ass and send it to you. (1280)