Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
An excerpt from Larry Miller's book, Driven: An Autobiography —
... We also weren't going to let the inmates run the asylum. One of the best things we did was hire Jerry Sloan as coach. At the time, he said, "I am only going to ask you for one thing — if I get fired, let me get fired for my own decisions." I've always honored that. Too often management makes decisions that affect the team and the coach, and the coach takes the fall for it.
From the start, we gave Jerry complete charge of the team. In this era of multi million-dollar player salaries, the players are often given more power than the coach in this league. Owners and management bow to the demands of their star players because they have invested so much money in them. We let Jerry run the team the way he sees fit. He runs a tight ship, even in the way he insists that his players dress. The Jazz Way is old school. It is about little things. It is wearing your socks the same length — four inches above the ankle — it is shoes the same color as your teammates' shoes, it is tucking in your shirt and keeping it there, it is having your shoes tied at all times, it is about sitting in a certain order during timeouts. Karl Malone once announced that he was going to wear black shoes in our next game. Jerry told him, "You're not going to be on my team if you wear black shoes." He would've been the only player in black shoes, and Jerry wants them to look like a team. Karl wore white shoes.
Jerry tolerates little nonsense, although once in a while he lets things slide. Once, in the locker room at halftime, Jerry was talking to the team and said something that Greg Ostertag didn't like. Ostertag threw a bag of ice at Jerry's head. Jerry simply moved his head to one side to dodge the ice and then kept talking as if nothing happened.
The other thing we have done is to strive for stability on the court and in the front office. As any sports fan knows, most sports franchises are quick to fire coaches and administrators and they are equally quick to trade players. We try to pick good people and then let them do their jobs, and we stick with them and maintain our faith in them even through trying times. Sloan has coached for one team longer than anyone in NBA history (the 2008-09 season was his 21st season), and he is the fourth winningest coach ever. His assistant, Phil Johnson, has been with the Jazz for 24 years. We've had only three trainers in 36 years. Stockton and Malone were here almost 40 years combined, which is almost unheard of in this day. Our head scout, Dave Fredman, has been with the Jazz for 28 years. Our director of basketball operations, Richard Smith, has been with the team since 1984. The voice of the Jazz, Hot Rod Hundley, was here 35 years before retiring. Our vice president of game operations, Grant Harrison, has been with the Jazz since they came to Utah in 1979. Team president Randy Rigby and CFO Bob Hyde have both been here 25 years. We've pretty much had only two men serve as general manager in all those years - Scott Layden and Kevin O'Connor. When Frank Layden decided he had had enough of coaching, we made him team president and essentially turned him into our ambassador. He traveled, watched games, did interviews, commercials and speaking engagements — and got paid to do it. We were grateful to Frank and appreciated all he had done for the team and repaid him with a very generous retirement package.
Our stability has certainly been a big part in our success. Think about it: The Jazz have been a model of consistency and stability for a quarter of a century. They own NBA records for the most consecutive seasons of finishing with a .500 record or better, with 21. That's more than the great Auerbach Celtics (19), more than Magic Johnson's Lakers (16), more than the Celtics of the Larry Bird era (14). The Jazz also own the NBA record for most consecutive winning seasons, with 19. They rank third in NBA history in most consecutive playoff appearances, with 20, trailing only Wilt Chamberlain's 76ers (22) and the Portland Trail Blazers (21).
Think about it: In 26 years, Jazz fans have seen one losing season. Along the way their team ascended to the NBA Finals twice and the conference finals six times while winning eight division titles.
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