Utah Jazz have talked to Jerry Sloan about coming back to the organization
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Ever since he shocked the basketball world in 2011, Jerry Sloan's name has popped up in rumors and reports for a multitude of NBA coaching positions.
Portland, Charlotte, Milwaukee and so on.
Add another possibility — one much closer to home — to the mix.
The Utah Jazz have had a preliminary discussion with Sloan about returning to the fold in an unspecified position.
Twenty-eight months after resigning from being the Jazz's head coach, the Hall of Famer is open to considering taking a role with his old organization to help the rebuilding franchise and his successor, Tyrone Corbin.
"That's up to (them). That's a situation that's strictly up to Ty or somebody in the Jazz organization," Sloan told the Deseret News. "If they want me around, fine. If they don't, (fine). They'd talked to me a little bit about it a little bit earlier."
Sloan didn't say whether or not an offer was made. Nor did he specify whether a possible return would be as a consultant, a coach or in the front office. The 71-year-old, who still lives in Utah, is very respectful of Corbin, his former assistant coach and player, and wouldn’t want to become a distraction.
"I'd hate to be in anybody's way," Sloan said.
Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's executive vice president of basketball operations, was unavailable for a comment. Asked about Sloan possibly being hired back by the Jazz, general manager Dennis Lindsey replied, "No comment."
Sloan has been rubbing shoulders with Jazz management more often as of late, though. He attended the majority of Utah's home games last season — seated about 10 rows behind the home bench. Three weeks ago, Sloan was at Zions Bank Basketball Center for the team's first pre-draft workout, which included six prospects for the June 27 NBA Draft.
Also last month, Sloan accepted the Jazz's invitation to attend the NBA Pre-Draft Combine in Chicago, which is about 300 miles north of his farm in McLeansboro, Ill. The Jazz were represented at the massive invitation-only workout by the likes of O'Connor, Lindsey, Corbin and Walt Perrin, among others.
"They asked me if I wanted to go, and I said, 'yes,' and I went," Sloan said. "I enjoyed being there watching some of these guys play. There were some I hadn't seen before. I was just back killing time, it looked like."
While it remains a mystery whether he'll make an NBA comeback, Sloan's coaching tree expanded this past week when his former players Karl Malone (Jazz big men) and Jeff Hornacek (Suns head coach) accepted various positions.
Though the Hall of Fame power forward still resides in Louisiana, Malone will help coach Jazz bigs Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Jeremy Evans on an "as-needed basis."
"I think it (will) be a great thing," Sloan said of Malone rejoining the Jazz. "If I had young players like they have, he has a lot to offer from where he came from to where he got to in his career."
One of the biggest things Malone can do for the Jazz's post players, Sloan believes, is to help them emulate the work ethic that helped The Mailman, the league's second-all-time leading scorer, become one of the most durable and dangerous players in NBA history.
"If you want to get to that level," he said, "it takes a lot of hard work."
Sloan, who coached the Jazz from 1988-2011, didn't get a chance to put Malone on his staff after the power forward retired in 2004.
"He always had other things going on. Whenever I was coaching, I don't think he was really that interested in coaching yet," Sloan said. "But I think he's indicated that here in the last year or so that he'd be interested in getting back into basketball (to) some extent, and I think he's done that. I think he'll do a great job with them."
When Phoenix snatched Hornacek away from his assistant coach gig in Utah last week, the 50-year-old became the sixth former Sloan-coached player from the Jazz to become an NBA head coach. The others include Corbin, Jacque Vaughn (Orlando), Mark Jackson (Golden State), Larry Krystkowiak (Milwaukee, 2007-08) and Marc Iavaroni (Memphis, 2007-09).
Hornacek worked on a part-time basis under Sloan as the Jazz's shooting coach from 2007-11, helping guys like Andrei Kirilenko and Gordon Hayward.
Sloan is well aware that Phoenix finished 25-57 in 2012-13, and he's not quite sure how quickly Hornacek can turn things around in the Valley of the Sun.
"It all depends on who they get him as players," Sloan said. "It's hard to win the Kentucky Derby unless you have some thoroughbreds."
That's why Sloan considered himself so lucky to have standout players the likes of Malone, John Stockton, Hornacek, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer during his coaching career in Utah. Sloan was fired from his first head-coaching job in Chicago in 1982 after going 94-121 with much lesser talent.
But Sloan is certainly a fan of Hornacek's.
"I think he'll do a good job coaching, although I've never seen him coach," Sloan said. "His background in it is very good. I think he'll do a good job. It still boils down to having good players."
With all this coaching talk regarding Malone, Hornacek and Sloan going on, what about their other sidekick — the one who holds NBA records for assists and steals?
"Do I think it could happen? You'll have to ask John that. John is the one who's in control of that, not me," Sloan said when jokingly asked about the possibility of Stockton returning to the NBA as a coach.
"I think he'd be a great coach if he ever wanted to coach."
If Sloan has a Jazz reunion, it wouldn't be unprecedented in franchise history. His predecessor, Frank Layden, became team president after surprisingly stepping down early into the 1988-89 season. The Jazz's first Utah-era coach, Tom Nissalke, has remained in Salt Lake City, working on the team's broadcast crew many years after being replaced by Layden in 1981. Similarly, Phil Johnson, Sloan's top assistant for nearly 23 years, has taken on a commentator role for Jazz telecasts after his 2011 resignation.
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