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Five questions with former Utah Jazz coach Tom Nissalke

Published: Saturday, Jan. 18 2014 12:35 p.m. MST

It’s human nature to think the latest is always the greatest.

There’s no doubt LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are among the best to play the game. Deseret News sports columnist Brad Rock talked with former Jazz coach Tom Nissalke about his take on where the game stands, both today and yesterday.

1. Q. Do teams ever really tank a season?

A. “I think organizations tank. I don’t think players do. Players know that they’re being auditioned every time they play. If they’re on a bad team, they know they’re not going to be back the next year. There will be some draft picks, some trades made, so the players are always auditioning — and coaches are too. So would an organization tank a season? Probably not a season. Even now there’s some people that think the Jazz would like to finish out of playoffs and get in the lottery, but they’d have to be stupid, because attendance is not what it was in the past anyway. If a fan thinks this team doesn’t care, and they’re looking for next year already, why not wait until next year? Do I think there have been franchises that have given up? Sure.”

2. Q. Can Utah attract top free agents?

A. “I think No. 1 is that everybody has their price. I saw a quote from Jim Harbaugh when he was at the University of San Diego and someone asked him if he planned to be here long term. He said ‘I have no idea but everybody has their price.’ So I think everyone has a price. Would most top players rather not come here? Probably. They’d rather go to a state where it’s warm … it’ll be a battle to get top free agents to come here, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It goes back to everyone has their price.”

3. Q. Who was the best player ever in the NBA?

A. “If I had my choice of any player I could have gotten in their prime, I’d go with (Kareem Abdul-) Jabbar. I think he was the greatest college player ever to play and I don’t think anybody could argue. But if I had my choice to start a franchise with a player in his prime, I would go with Jabbar and probably LeBron James second.

4. Q. Who is a player you would be mostly likely to pay to watch?

A. “I think Kobe (Bryant), injury-free. Kobe will be in top 10 all time, so will Kareem. My all-time team is Oscar (Robertson) and MJ (Michael Jordan) at guards, Jabbar up front, Wilt Chamberlain and either Rick Barry or Larry Bird. It’s between Magic and Oscar as greatest point guard of all time. The next group is Stockton, Isiah (Thomas) and the smaller guys.”

5. Q. Who was the toughest player you ever saw?

A. The toughest backcourt guys who were playing together were (Jerry) Sloan and Norm Van Lier. Calvin Murphy was 5-9, about 180 pounds, about same size as Rocky Marciano. People don’t realize that … Nobody would challenge Calvin when he played for me in Houston. We were playing Boston one night and he just flattened Sidney Wicks, must have hit him five times. Sidney collapsed and they showed it on our replay board and people were counting the punches. (Coach) Tommy Heinsohn came walking down and said, ‘Tommy — he called me Tommy, too — if they show that one more time it’s gonna be you and me and I think I’ll win.’ So I got them to shut that off.”

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged

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