Jerry Sloan is wrapping up his 18th season as an NBA head coach. Unless the unexpected happens, it will be the 18th season that somebody else wins the Red Auerbach Trophy as coach of the year.
Not that Sloan cares.
"That's the last thing I want," he said with a sneer.
Certainly, there have been seasons in which he's deserved it. Any of those three 60-win seasons in the mid-1990s. Any of those five Midwest Division winners. Heck, even the 1980-81 season in which his Chicago Bulls improved by 15 games over the previous year.
Unlike in 1996 when Phil Jackson won the award, there was no Michael Jordan on that Bulls team. Instead, Sloan's leading scorer that season was Reggie Theus.
Of the top 10 winningest coaches in NBA history, Sloan and Jack Ramsey are the only two never to have won the award. No current NBA coach has lasted longer or won more games without having won it. It's ridiculous that Sloan hasn't been honored at least one time.
"If he hasn't won it," said Sacramento Coach Rick Adelman, also a non-winner in his 12 seasons, "then who am I to complain?"
Jackson wasn't penalized for having Jordan in 1996. Pat Riley wasn't penalized in 1990 for having Magic Johnson. But Sloan's been penalized for having Karl Malone and John Stockton during his tenure in Utah. That's denied him the perception of overachieving.
Instead, he's just seen as achieving.
As Sloan himself said, "When you have Karl Malone and John Stockton, you're supposed to win."
"I've been blessed," he added. "It wasn't anything I've done. Anybody could coach this team."
That's another problem. Sloan is old school. He doesn't campaign for personal recognition. He's self-deprecating to the point where voters will believe him.
Meantime, he finds it humorous -- perhaps even a little sad -- whenever he hears coaches pumping up their resume in hopes of winning the award.
"I'm always amazed at the jockeying around for that sort of thing, the comments people make to try to become coach of the year," Sloan said.
Within a 72-hour span earlier this week, Portland's Rasheed Wallace agreed to attend drug counseling and Indiana's Ron Artest was involved in another ugly on-court incident.
Mere coincidence? Think not. These two lead the league in boorish behavior (as do their teams). Rarely does a week go by when neither is stirring up trouble.
Wallace is the established champ among the Bad Boys. Artest is the promising up-and-coming primed to seize the crown.
Artest is even adding a dash of unintentional humor to his problems. After receiving his $20,000 fine this week for giving the middle finger to fans in Cleveland, Artest explained that the middle finger on his right hand "is crooked so it sticks out. Maybe that's what was showing."
That still doesn't explain making the same gesture with his left hand.
The Mavericks could benefit from a scheduling mistake by the league. Golden State comes to Dallas next Saturday on the second night of a back-to-back. The night before, the Warriors are in Phoenix. League rules are that teams can fly no more than one time zone when playing back-to-backs, but the Warriors will lose two hours. Since they aren't expected in Dallas until 4 a.m. next Saturday, the Warriors will have less than 16 hours before tip-off.
"I don't know what the recourse for that is," said Warriors forward Adonal Foyle, the team's union representative. "You just hope the schedule will be better next year. I guess you just deal with it." . . .
Caron Butler produced a 35-point game last week and is trying to make a late charge for rookie of the year honors. Sorry, Caron, but the final two contestants of that race were decided long ago.
Exposure is almost as important as production, and Butler certainly can't match the attention Houston's Yao Ming and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire have received this season. As Heat Coach Pat Riley said, "The reality is that we aren't on national television, a lot of people don't see him and we're not a team that politics like crazy." . . .
Michael Jordan on LeBron James: "I think he's talented for 18 years old. I think once he gets on this level, he's not in the upper echelon of two guards and small forwards. I think he's toward the bottom -- respectfully so, because I think there's so much about his game he's going to have to adapt. He has unbelievable potential, but he hasn't played against the competition consistently in college or the pros. He's played against high school kids who are probably under six feet and have the talent of sportswriters." . . .
Is any franchise in more disarray than the Atlanta Hawks? Lon Kruger was fired as coach. Now Pete Babcock is out as general manager. The roster is next. While the talent is there, the chemistry isn't right. A fresh start is definitely needed, since the fresh start last season with the acquisition of Glenn Robinson hasn't worked. "This summer, they're going to be busy again," guard Jason Terry said. . . .
Last year in Charlotte, the Hornets under-reported attendance figures to make it easier to move the franchise. This season in New Orleans, the Hornets may be taking the opposite tact, inflating attendance figures to make it appear that the city has become smitten with its newest team.