Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan made an appearance in a venerable Utah arena Monday where the games don't involve a basketball.
The Utah Legislature honored Sloan and longtime assistant Phil Johnson with a resolution recognizing their college and professional accomplishments. The two coaches, who unexpectedly resigned last month, also attended a reception in the Capitol with Gov. Gary Herbert.
"I think this is the greatest city in the world to play basketball in," Sloan said. "My biggest disappointment is we didn't have a flag to hang up as world champions."
The Senate presented Sloan, Johnson and team owner Gail Miller with a bookmark reflecting its theme this year of making a mark.
"Each of you have made a mark," said Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville.
Johnson praised the Miller family. "The way they handled the situation with us retiring was top-notch. They were so gracious. They spent a lot of time trying to talk us out of it."
Sloan and Johnson spent about 23 years together on the Jazz bench.
"I admire these men not only for what they've done, what they've accomplished, but how they've done it," said Herbert in declaring Monday as Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson Day.
Herbert said their approach to coaching reflects Utah's industriousness and roll-up-your-sleeves attitude.
The resolution says Sloan's approach to basketball was "tough-minded, down-to-earth, and plain-spoken, and he had a relentless blue-collar work ethic."
It describes him as a "model of consistency in the way his teams tenaciously played and graciously won, the way he always dealt with his players and the team's front office, in the respectful way he dealt with opposing players and coaches, in the way he conducted himself, and in the way he loved to compete and hated to lose."
The resolution says "as much as Sloan has been an institution in the NBA and pro sports, Johnson has been at his side, demonstrating great loyalty."
Sloan said he doesn't know where he would be without Johnson, adding he'll miss him more than anyone. Sloan said he intends to split his time between Utah and his farm in Illinois.
"It's fun to see a couple of old birds like these retire," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City.
The resolution's House sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said the former Jazz coaches have brought "great honor to the state of Utah."
Ray, a junior high basketball coach, said he received the greatest honor when one of his players told him, "You're just as mean as Jerry Sloan."
Said Jazz season-ticket holder Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake, "Coach Sloan, you have colorful language, but I think you say many things people think."
Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, thanked the Miller family for risking all they had to keep the Jazz in Utah.
"We can never repay the Miller family for what they went through to get that accomplished," he said.
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