You’d be hard-pressed to find an NBA organization that’s more admiring of a past coach than the Utah Jazz with Jerry Sloan. Still, the man doesn’t need a statue.
Sloan did more than just show up for games, though …
In over two decades as the man in charge on Utah’s sideline, Sloan coached the Jazz to 15 straight playoff appearances from 1989 to 2003 and, including the postseason, an astounding 1,223 wins — good enough for the fourth-most all-time wins by any NBA head coach.
And while the winning numbers are certainly noteworthy, perhaps of greater importance for both Jazz fans and management alike is the way Sloan’s players continue to feel about him after their playing days ended. In spite of Sloan’s dwindling health, there’s all the respect in the world.
At the time, though 13 years removed from the league, speaking of the way he felt about Sloan, said ex-Jazzman Bryon Russell in an article for KSL’s Ryan Miller back in the Summer of 2019:
“I know he doesn’t want us to be pouting. That’s him. ‘Don’t pout.’ I just wish him the best. I wish he didn’t have to go through the problems that he is going through. He knows that I love him. I really do love him as a person and as a coach.”
Did you catch that?
Straight from the mouth of a man who spent nine years being pushed by Sloan, of the countless things Sloan taught him about life and basketball, “don’t pout” was the thing that came to mind.
Jazz fans, on the other hand? Eh, not so much …
Less than a year ago, a sizable chunk of ‘em demonstrated as much, amassing well over 1,200 signatures on a Change.org petition. Their impassioned, unifying cause? To bend Gail Miller’s ear to the point of her green-lighting a bronze statue of Sloan alongside those of Stockton and Malone on the southeast corner of Vivint Smart Home Arena — spoiler alert: it didn’t happen.
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And it shouldn’t have happened, either.
I know this’ll come off as harsh, but there’s no getting around it, so here goes nothing …
Jersey retirements, center-court ceremonies and effigy edification should be strictly limited to actual NBA players. For as much guidance (more ego management, really) as a coach provides, it’s the players who are most directly linked to results — this is their league; let them enjoy it.
Furthermore, though Sloan’s never come out and said he’s opposed to the building of a statue in his honor, if the way he responded to his 2014 banner-raising is any indication of what he feels, he’s not a fan.
Remember: raised on a rural farm in Illinois, this is a guy who got up at 4:30 a.m. to milk cows before school — save the flash, pomp and circumstance for Pat Riley, if you must.
Milking cows is one thing; there’s more than one way to skin a cat, though:
- Paint Sloan’s signature on the Jazz’s home-court hardwood.
- Create an award with his likeness emblazoned on the front of it.
- The Chicago Bears did it — sew Sloan’s initials onto the Jazz’s jerseys.
The best way to honor Sloan, however, will be to bring an NBA title to Salt Lake City.
Justin Zanik and Dennis Lindsey do their part by choosing to make title-contending moves over settling for small-market relevancy. The players do their part by competing to win games. The fans do their part by loyally supporting the team — no matter what the win column looks like.
In the interim, Sloan remains a legend. Regardless of what happens, decades from now, he’ll be just as much a part of the Jazz’s global identity as Stockton or Malone — no statue necessary.