With the sudden announcement yesterday that Jerry Sloan was walking away from his job as the head coach of the Utah Jazz after 23 years, tonight's game has taken on new meaning. Forget about Phoenix Suns versus Utah Jazz. This isn't about Deron Williams versus Steve Nash. This game is about life after Jerry Sloan and not just in Utah. Sloan's departure leaves a gapping hole in the fabric of the NBA
Suns' coach Alvin Gentry talked about Sloan's legacy and tenure, during which time over 250 other NBA coaches have been hired (and fired). Gentry counted up nine different coaching jobs he's held during Sloan's time running the Jazz.
"If I'm not mistaken, I think in the last 15 years he's had one losing season. That's a pretty good run right there," Gentry said.
"Obviously we know the guy's already a Hall of Fame guy, but I don't think he'll ever be judged as a guy who didn't win a championship. It's really difficult to win championships. You can have a great legacy coaching and it doesn't come down to winning or losing a championship. I think he's go down as one of the greatest coaches ever to coach in this league."
Discipline and consistency were the keys to the Jazz offensive execution and defensively Sloan's teams reflected his own hard-nosed style both as a player and coach.
Gentry wouldn't speculate on the details of Sloan's unexpected resignation, but said that he had a hard time seeing Sloan leave over a conflict with a player, "He's tough guy and very set in his ways and I don't know if that would be the only reason for him leaving."
The Jazz will now be led by long-time assistant, Ty Corbin. Gentry expects the Jazz team to respond well to Corbin who is a known factor in the locker room and he doesn't see Corbin changing a system that's worked so well in Utah.
The Jazz are 31-23 on the season with their next two games against the Phoenix Suns who at 25-25 are only two games back in the loss column. These are big games for the Suns playoff race but it's always difficult to win in Salt Lake City and will be even more so tonight having played and traveled the previous night and of course walking into an unknown situation.
"I don't know what to expect. I don't know if anybody there knows what to expect, " Gentry said about tonight's game. "Just to not have him on the sidelines there is going to be very weird I think for everybody that's involved in it."
The game tips at 8:30 p.m. local time and will be broadcast on My45 locally and ESPN nationally along with Sports 620 KTAR radio. Fans can follow along with other Suns fans at the live game thread at Bright Side of the Sun.
Other Gentry thoughts on Jerry Sloan
"To me, I'm not sure he's done coaching. There will be opportunities there for him, for sure."
Is there a team you wouldn't want to see him coach? "Yea, the Phoenix Suns!"
"I think it's going to be odd for anyone. I've been in the NBA 22, 23 years. Since I was here he was the coach there. Since I stepped into the league. To not have him sitting there coaching calling 'basic' and 'auto' is going to be a little different I think."
"Literally, you could go back and get a scouting report from when Hornacek, Stockton and Malone where there and it's pretty much the same stuff."