Jerry Sloan steps down as Utah Jazz head coach, and the NBA is lesser for it

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 10, 2011; 11:56 PM

It was about two hours before his final news conference when Jerry Sloan picked up the phone. He didn't mind talking, but he asked the interview not be made public until after he spoke before the cameras and microphones in Utah.

It wasn't because he had ratted out Deron Williams, the headstrong player whom he feuded with and who failed to run a play his coach called the other night, or Jazz management, who reportedly failed to back him in that dispute.

There was no bombshell; Sloan was just making sure things were done in the proper order. The local papers get to hear him first, then everybody else.

"I realize it's the time of day when I need to move on," he said, solemnly.

For everything being made of the player-coach dust-up, Generation Next did not claim another old-school victim Thursday afternoon; the NBA's young-knucklehead fraternity didn't topple a 68-year-old lifer hell-bent on maintaining values of the game.

No. Sloan just got tired of teaching them to grow up.

"It's my decision," he said. "I knew all along that some day it was going to happen, that there was going to be a day when I needed to move on. Today is that day. I've been thinkin' about it for the last 48 hours or so."

The shock isn't that Jerry Sloan stepped down in the middle of the NBA season; it's that he lasted as long as he did in the I-gotta-get-mine NBA world of hangers-on and paid serfs, where kids are constantly told what they want instead of what they need.

"Did you hear what Jerry Sloan just called me?" Karl Malone asked about 11 years ago after a Jazz practice I had attended. I told the Mailman I had heard profanity, but did not know it was directed at him.

"He done cussed me out like I was a damn rookie," Malone said, still seething.

About a half-hour later, he added, "You know what? I needed that. I needed to hear what he told me today."

The reason Sloan lasted is because he had veterans such as Malone and John Stockton who understood that as good as they were, they could always get better, that no matter how much time they'd spent around the game, they hadn't spent as much as their coach.

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