Tom Smart, Deseret News
Five things that made this past half-fortnight one of the weirdest weeks in Utah Jazz history:
1. Take this job and shift it to Ty
Waking up Friday morning and realizing that Jerry Sloan was no longer the head coach of the Utah Jazz was extremely bizarre. I almost expected to wake up Saturday morning and see that the Wasatch Front mountains had disappeared as well.
Phil Johnson's tag-along resignation made it all the more strange. But how the best buds, who'd coached together here for the past 23 seasons, had each others' backs until the bitter end makes it pretty poetic. And you know they're genuinely happy that Ty Corbin got his dream job.
2. They booed who?
Who would have ever guessed that in back-to-back games, both Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams would receive loud boos at EnergySolutions Arena. Boozer might tell you fans were giving him the positive "BOOZ!" treatment every time he touched the ball, which obviously wouldn't be true.
But hearing Williams get significant boos during introductions, well, nobody could've predicted that before Thursday when reports and rumors linked the beloved All-Star with being responsible for Sloan's unexpected departure. Both Williams and Sloan admitted they had a locker room blowout in Wednesday's loss to the Bulls, but both sides also denied that that was the Hall of Fame coach's raison d'exit.
3. The Mailman delivers a speech for the ages
Karl Malone didn't return any phone calls Thursday, because he wanted to come to the ESA and personally pontificate on what made Sloan leave. His old coach, Malone insisted, would never quit. That statement suggested that players and/or the front office were behind the midseason retirement.
And that was just the beginning for Malone, who ranted that the players need to play old school, that the problems he'd heard were going on couldn't even be fixed if Dr. Naismith and John Wooden were put in charge, and that players need to do their homework (e.g. watch game film) and work hard on their own instead of bagging on Sloan for giving them light workouts and leniency.
Malone also said one day he will carry on Sloan's legacy as a coach, and lamented that the Jazz had never called him for help since he left the organization eight years ago. Wow. It was epic.
4. Talk about a coincidence
He has a farm in Illinois and a home in Utah, but that just begins to scratch the surface of Sloan's connections between those two states.
He was "The Original Bull" and had his No. 4 jersey retired by Chicago after a 10-year playing career there; he had his first head coaching job with the Bulls; his late 1990s Jazz teams will forever be linked to Michael Jordan's NBA Finals squads because of their two entertaining championship series; and then his last game as a coach came against the Bulls. Cue the "Twilight Zone" music.
Two more interesting tidbits came Wednesday morning:
A. When I asked him after the morning shootaround what he'd learned from being fired from the Bulls in 1982, he said it was to not feel sorry for himself.
B. A fellow reporter dropped his pen in the garbage can that Sloan always conducted his shootaround interviews next to, and the coach joked the reason he had that odd habit was because, "You never know when you're going to end up in the garbage."
5. My farewell to arms
On Monday morning, Sloan was explaining to a few reporters how to effectively defend the pick-and-roll. One problem players had is that they locked their knees and got lost in the screens. Sloan then went into demonstration mode, showing with his long arms how to fight through picks.
My right arm happened to be in his arms' path. My recorder went flying after my forearm got smacked. The battery popped out and Sloan said he'd buy me a replacement recorder if it was broken.
Without skipping a beat, he went on explaining the pick-and-roll D. I returned to the media huddle and joked that my knees had locked up. Later that night, he joked back that I should keep a safe distance during interviews.
I told him I was thankful he wasn't showing us how to take a charge.
Tuesday at Suns, 7 p.m., FSN
Here's going out on a limb and predicting the Jazz will score more than 27 second-half points in Ty Corbin's second game.
Wednesday vs. Warriors, 7 p.m., FSN
Don't get too excited about this match-up: Jazz have lost four straight at home and only scored 81 points vs. G.S. last month.
Thursday-Sunday, All-Star Break
Deron Williams is the only Jazz player who has to punch the clock over this much-needed four-day rest. Cancun anyone?
The BIG Stat
245: Unbelievably, that's how many coaching changes there were between Sloan taking the Jazz job on Dec. 9, 1988 and when he resigned on Feb. 10, 2011. That page, FYI, no longer exists in the game notes. And Corbin's tally is: 0.
Who's Hot: Ty Corbin
It comes in hard circumstances, but The Milkman gets the dream head coaching position he's been pursuing.
Who's Not: Deron Williams
He will forever be linked — fair or not — with his Hall of Fame coach's unexpected midseason resignation after 22-plus years.
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