Today the NBA lost one of the great coaches in the history of the league in Jerry Sloan, his 26 year career as a head coach established him as one of the most well respected and productive coaches in the league. His 23 year tenure with the Utah Jazz established him as the longest tenured coach with one team in NBA history. He was a model of consistency and toughness around the league. In his 23 years in Utah, he had all of one losing season, which is miraculous considering that he almost lead a team spearheaded by Carlos Arroyo, Matt Harpring, Raja Bell, and Andrei Kirilenko to the playoffs when most of those players, with the exception of Kirilenko, would be considered average role players on decent teams. The argument could be made that this year's version of the Cleveland Cavaliers have more talent than that Jazz team, however the results were completely different. Yet while I sit here pondering the day's event, something sour sits in my mouth, this shouldn't be the way that an NBA icon leaves the game.
It feels all too similar to Bobby Bowden being forced out of Florida State, Stan Van Gundy resigning as coach as the Miami Heat. In a season filled with conversation about "the decision" and Carmelo Anthony trade rumors, the last thing we needed were rumors of a power struggle between Sloan and All-Star point guard Deron Williams. Whether or not the rumors are true isn't really what's important, it's the fact that players are putting themselves before the team. What happened to the days of Cal Ripken Jr. and Dan Marino, where you make the best of the situation given to you? It's a sad day when Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera have to fight to stay with the team that they've been loyal to for over 15 years. Now Sloan, the epitome of stability and loyalty, is seemingly forced out of Salt Lake. As a Jazz fan, I've always loved Deron's desire and tenacity to drive his team to victory, and at times, I've wanted Sloan to retire to bring in fresh blood and energy to the team, however this situation doesn't seem like the way for one of the most respected figures in all of professional athletics to leave. It reminds me a lot of a song by Ben Folds called Fred Jones Pt. 2
"Fred sits alone at his desk in the dark
There's an awkward young shadow that waits in the hall,
He's cleared all his things and he's put them in boxes
Things that remind him: 'Life has been good'
He's worked at the paper
A man's here to take him downstairs
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones
The situation between Jerry and Deron is too unfortunate, as I hear details come forth, I can't help but feel a little like when I was watching Mark Zuckerburg screw over his best friend in The Social Network. Deron wouldn't be where he is now without Jerry and honestly the past five years probably wouldn't have been as productive as they have been for Jerry without Deron, but as they say, all is fair in love and war, but just like the movies, you never hear about the boy left with the broken heart or the soldier left dead on the battlefield.