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Jerry Sloan: Remembering legendary Utah Jazz coach

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Over the course of covering the NBA for four decades, certain little things stick with you, and you’re not quite sure why. One of those little things came from John Stockton. Early in 2002, while I worked on a piece about his Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, I asked Stockton, why, at that stage of his Hall of Fame career, he still looked over to the sidelines to get a play call.

“Why wouldn’t I?” answered Stockton.

A perfect Stockton answer. A perfect Utah Jazz answer. And the perfect illustration of the relationship between quarterback and coach, who died on Friday, and, man, it seems like an era died with him. Sloan was 78 and had been suffering for several years with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

Thankfully, for those who never knew of Sloan—a hard-nosed guard with the Chicago Bulls from 1965 to 1976 and system-first coach who led the Jazz from 1988 until 2011—there he was making a brief appearance in The Last Dance, standing at the podium showing deadpan amazement that his high-functioning Jazz had scored but 54 points in Game 3 of the 1997 NBA Finals. “Is this the final?” asks Sloan.

Nobody did deadpan like Sloan. When I would drop in for a few words with Sloan during the 80s and 90s, our conversation would usually go something like this.

Me: How you doing, Jerry?

Sloan: I’m still vertical.

Me: How’s your team?

Sloan: We’re terrible.

Me: Maybe you can’t coach.

Sloan: Hell, everybody knows that.

Me: Thanks, Jerry.

Sloan: For what?

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