Utah Jazz: Mr. Consistent — As Jazz evolve and change, Sloan remains Utah's rock

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 29 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Sloan yells at Andrei Kirilenko after Kirilenko fouled Kobe Bryant with only seconds left in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Western Conference Semifinals.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

They have made it to the NBA Finals under him twice, back in the days of Karl Malone and John Stockton.

They have made it to the NBA postseason under him 17 times, the three-year absence coming only in the immediate post Stockton-and-Malone era.

They had 16 consecutive winning seasons under him, they've had 12 50-win seasons under him and they've won seven division titles under him — including the last two in the Northwest, during what are now the days of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer.

Beyond the relative success of his teams and their lunch-bucket work ethic, however, what Jerry Sloan may pride himself on most is the trait of continuity he has etched into the Jazz's DNA.

Season to season, roster turnover is minimal — and has been ever since stars Stockton and Malone played together in Utah for more than a decade-and-a-half.

Only two current Jazz players, veteran point guard Brevin Knight and rookie big man Kosta Koufos, were not with the team last season.

Nine of the Jazz's 15 roster members have never played for another NBA franchise.

And five of the 15 will be starting their fifth season as teammates for that long or longer, a real rarity in a league where expectations are high and patience is as thin as the Wasatch Mountain's air.

"That has been a norm for a lot of teams: If it's not working, let's get rid of everybody," said Knight, who is in 12th NBA season and is with his ninth different team — never staying as many as four full seasons with any one. "Here, one thing they're really good about is staying together, keeping guys together as long as possible."

"He always talks about keeping the same teams intact, and keeping guys together. I think it helps," Williams added. "There's not a lot of teaching to be done. It's just a matter of getting everything crisp, and tightening things defensively. You know, everybody here knows the offense. It hasn't changed in 19 years."

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It did significantly change at least once, actually.

That was after a certain future hall-of-famer retired, prompting the Jazz to switch to a two-guard front because Sloan didn't feel he had a point guard in whom he could entrust the offense.

Enter 2005 No. 3 overall draft pick Williams to pair with two-time NBA All-Star Boozer, however, and Sloan's teams were right back to their bread-and-butter, running the same sets as Stockton and Malone did for years on top of years.

"I've always believed in continuity," said the 66-year-old Sloan, who with tonight's 2008-09 opener against the Denver Nuggets at EnergySolutions Arena officially opens his 21st season as head coach of the Jazz. "Some guys might not like it here today. ... But then they start playing together and it's not so bad, if they start winning. And that's all I've ever looked for.

"Having guys kind of know what you're kind of doing," he added, "gives you a chance."

The kicker, of course, is that the Jazz wouldn't have the continuity they do if it weren't for Sloan's own persistence in the position he has held since being elevated from assistant to succeed Frank Layden on Dec. 9, 1988.

That's before seven of his current players had entered kindergarten — and before one of them, 19-year-old Koufos, had even been born.

"There's a continuity both ways," said Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor, who himself is beginning his 10th season in charge of the team's front office. "And I think that's beneficial."

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