SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Some eyebrows were lifted when a gracious Jerry Sloan mentioned Greg Ostertag among Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Artis Gilmore, Adrian Dantley and other players who've played significant roles in his Hall-of-Fame coaching career.
Yes, you heard him right.
And that's not the only thing that might surprise basketball fans about the Big OO.
The former Jazz center is attempting an NBA comeback.
He even recently worked out for a team.
Last week, Ostertag participated in a scrimmage with the Portland Trail Blazers, who are reportedly auditioning big men, including perhaps Jarron Collins, the Oregonian reported.
Ostertag had some rocky moments in his relationship with Sloan, which is why the Hall-of-Fame shout-out was unexpected.
Now 36 years old, Ostertag hasn't played in the NBA for more than three years, which is why his reported workout was eye-opening.
The 7-foot-2 center played 10 of his 11 seasons of his NBA career in Utah, including the first nine and his last one in 2005-06 after a one-year stint in Sacramento. The Kansas product gave Utah a solid interior presence at the beginning of his career — and was a contributor on the team during their back-to-back NBA Finals appearances.
But the fun-loving Ostertag is almost more infamous for some quirks, including his Fred Flintstone tattoo, a happy-go-lucky-if-not-goofy personality, getting knocked down by Shaquille O'Neal, being called a not-so-nice name in public by Karl Malone after not coming to camp in shape one year, and randomly removing his fake front teeth.
But he did average 4.6 points, 1.7 blocks and 5.5 rebounds in his career.
Ostertag, who lives in Phoenix, was last seen publicly in Utah at the funeral ceremony for Larry H. Miller in February. A friend of Miller's youngest son, Bryan, Ostertag said at the time, "I had to be here. I played for him for 10 years. I knew him well enough, and he yelled at me enough ... so it was important to me."
CAVALIER CONCEPT: Portland apparently isn't the only NBA team intrigued by Jaron Collins, who is expected to workout at the Blazers' practice facility this week, according to the Oregonian.
The unrestricted free agent, who's spent all eight of his NBA seasons in Utah, has also been linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer: "(LeBron) James is back and is working out with about a dozen players at the Cavs' practice facility. One is free agent center Jarron Collins, whom the Cavs may sign."
The Jazz are facing luxury-tax penalties this season and drafted and signed a big man in Michigan State's Goran Suton, whose one-year deal is believed to be non-guaranteed, so it seems a longshot that the Collins will return. He averaged 2.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in a reserve role, though he was highly regarded by Sloan for his work ethic and knowledge of Utah's system.
STOKED TO SEE STOCK: Remember the huge John Stockton fan who traveled all the way up from Melbourne, Australia, in hopes of meeting and congratulating his hoops hero?
The story has a happy ending.
Jake Carroll, who has closely followed the point guard's career since 1990 when he saw the Jazz play on TV, finally caught up with Stockton at an after-party following Friday night's Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. It turned his $1,000 ticket to the weekend's festivities into a great investment.
"I did get to meet John," Carroll wrote in an e-mail. "He was polite like I thought he would be and (I) got some quick snaps, although he was in pretty hot demand throughout the night."
GIDDY UP: If mamas don't want their babies to grow up to be cowboys, believe Sloan if he tells you they really don't want 'em to grow up to be something called "drugstore cowboys."
That's what his high school coach in McLeansboro, Ill., apparently called slackers.
"If you didn't play hard enough for him, he'd say to us, 'You guys are just a bunch of drug-store cowboys. Start making everybody milkshakes," Sloan deadpanned. "Nobody wanted to be drug-store cowboy."
Trust him on that, partner.
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