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January 19, 2009

The Coach

There are good Jerrys:

Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Rice
Jerry, of Tom and Jerry fame

There are bad Jerrys:
Jerry Springer
Jerry Bruckheimer (Armageddon, anyone?)
Hurricane Jerry, 1985

And then there’s the Jerry:
Jerry Sloan

Jerry Sloan is the best coach in the NBA. Go ahead, argue with me. Try and tell me about Greg Popavich, Phil Jackson, or Pat Riley. Tell me that Sloan has never won a championship or that Sloan won’t play rookies. Tell me that Sloan is too old, that he won’t change, that he’s too stubborn.

Tell me that, and I’ll tell you this:

At the beginning of the 2003-04 basketball season, the Utah Jazz were predicted to be the worst team in NBA history. 72 —that’s how many games one ESPN analyst predicted the Jazz to lose. I didn’t disagree with the prediction; I couldn't. The Jazz had lost John Stockton and Karl Malone that offseason, and there was no reason to expect the Jazz would be competitive. Just take a look at their roster that year:

Any roster with that many white guys had to lose a lot of games, right? Well, Jerry Sloan took this club full of no-name bums (Gordan Girikek, Curtis Borchardt, to name a pair) and recorded a 42-40 record in a Western Conference that boasted such players as Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Novwitzki, and Arvydis Sabonis. In the process the Jazz set the record for most wins by a team that has only 4 black players. The squad that was predicted to be the worst in NBA history missed the playoffs by one, stinking, measly game. Said Jazz general manager Kevin O' Conner of the feat, "For that (Jerry) should have been named coach of the century." Of course, despite 16 straight consecutive playoff appearances (18 overall), 2 conference championships, and 12 seasons with 50 or more wins, Sloan has never been awarded coach of anything.

Do you think Phil Jackson or Greg Papavich could have coached that Jazz team to 42 wins? Not a chance. These so-called "great coaches" of the NBA can't succeed unless they have the greatest players to ever score playing for their teams. Meanwhile, Sloan continues to set the standard for consistency whether his team is made up of Malones or Millsaps.

A couple of years ago, Sloan joined elite coaching company by winning his 1,000th game as a head coach. This season he became the first basektball coach to ever win 1,000 games with the same team. The longest tenured coach in all of pro sports has led the Jazz for 20 years; there have been 222 coaching changes in the league since his hiring.

When great players finish their careers, their number is retired. When Jerry Sloan ends his career, I hope to see his name retired. No more Jerrys should be born into the world, for none can live up to his name.

1 comment:

  1. What about Jerry Yarnell? He could almost be on both lists...