Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — I mean, the man sold all his tractors.
How else can he entertain himself, except coach?
Fifteen months after retiring, Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan's name has come up again, this time as a potential replacement in Orlando or Charlotte. He reportedly has admitted interest in the openings.
On one hand, you have a playoff team trying to keep its best player from leaving. On the other hand, you have the worst team in basketball, organized or otherwise.
Sure, he's bored, but Jerry needs this?
I know life in suburban Salt Lake and downstate Illinois aren't exciting. Competition is what fueled the Jazz coach since he was a farm kid hitchhiking his way to school. But I also know the NBA isn't the same as it was when Sloan had his most success.
I know Orlando superstar Dwight Howard reportedly said during the season he wouldn't play in Orlando if Stan Van Gundy stuck around. And that Howard's people said that report was "a completely made-up B.S. story." I know Howard requested in the preseason to be traded and that Van Gundy was fired this week.
I also know Sloan despises melodrama.
Returning to the NBA could be like a trip to Branson, if you ask me.
Then there are the Bobcats, a team that got just seven wins in 66 tries.
I'm guessing either of those jobs would work about as well as Sloan's last season with Deron Williams and the Jazz.
That's not saying Sloan can't still coach; it's saying a lot of players won't listen. Sloan would end up feeling like he's whacking a tractor with a wrench and yelling at it to start.
Comebacks don't always fail. Doug Collins — a longtime Sloan friend — was out of the NBA for eight years and came back to lead the Sixers to a .500 record last year and a playoff spot this season. They are closely battling Boston in the conference semifinals. Hubie Brown was out for 16 seasons before returning to lead Memphis to the playoffs and win Coach of the Year honors in 2004.
Phil Jackson won nine NBA championships, left for a year and came back to win two more.
In Sloan's case, he managed to sign and improve players who believed in his no-nonsense, conservative approach. The Jazz were among basketball's best teams throughout the 1990s, reaching the NBA finals twice. He even lasted through the Deron Williams-Carlos Boozer era, despite regular conflicts with the headstrong Williams.
It all came to a peak midway through the 2010-11 season when a locker room argument convinced Sloan to quit. On the spot. One minute he was head coach, next minute he was a very wealthy antiques collector.
Sloan actually grew as a coach while dealing with a new generation. He made peace with Andrei Kirilenko and took a Williams-Boozer team to the conference finals. But eventually the guy who constantly referred to his team's "energy" didn't have any himself.
Since retiring, he has quietly lived with his wife and stepson between homes in Utah and McLeansboro, Ill. But sources said all along he was restless. Perhaps only half-jokingly, he told the Deseret News last August that the high point of his day was his morning walk.
He even sold virtually all of his collection of 70 antique tractors.
Sloan didn't return to see a Jazz game until late this season, preferring to let new coach Ty Corbin find his way without interference.
In a return, Sloan would find a league where Dwyane Wade argues with his coach and yanks his arm away during a timeout. It's a league where top players increasingly seem willing to leave something they are building for an incarnation of their own design. A place where they leverage their power against teams that refined them.
That has happened in the past, too, but not as regularly or as publicly.
There are elite good guys like Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, but also players such as his gifted but volatile teammate, Russell Westbrook.
Sloan is third on the all-time coaching wins list. I know he's bored and that he feels he has unfinished business, having never won a championship. Walking on bad knees shouldn't be the best part of his day. But I also know he doesn't need the stress, however staid his retirement.
He'd probably be happier just getting his tractors back.
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